Yaz and Yasmine: Their Benefits and Adverse Effects

In June of 2013 Health Canada learned about the deaths of 23 Canadian women, with ages ranging between 14 and 44, who have been taking either of the two most famous oral contraceptives – Yaz or Yasmin. The report said that between 2007 and February 2013 at least eight women, who have been prescribed with Yaz and 15 others prescribed with Yasmin, have suddenly died months after use of the birth control pills. Causes of death include heart attack, pulmonary embolism (or blood clots in the lungs) and cerebral thrombosis (blood clots that prevent blood to be supplied to the brain).

Other reports received by Health Canada include more than 300 adverse effects in women taking Yasmin and as many as 267 from those taking Yaz – deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or blood that clots in the legs is a more common effect.

Yaz and Yasmin are both manufactured by a major German pharmaceutical company- Bayer Healthcare Pharmaceuticals. What sets them apart from all other types of birth control pills is drospirenone, a synthetic progestin that was created, and therefore is used exclusively by Bayer. Yasmin was introduced first by Bayer in 2001; five years after, Yaz was released to the market.

There are 21 active pills and 7 inactive or palliative pills in each pack of Yasmin; in Yaz the inactive pills total to only four, while the active pills, 24. Besides being proven to be highly-effective in preventing pregnancy, both products are also able to treat premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD) symptoms.

Probably better than Yasmin, Yaz is also said to be capable of preventing bloating, clearing acne and keeping women from the effects of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), such as depression and anxiety. This claim, coupled with an ad in the New York Times, which said that Yaz was a “quality of life treatment,” further increase sales.

The adverse effects caused by Yaz and Yasmin cannot be dismissed, though. Thus, in 2009, the US Food and Drug Administration issued Bayer a request to correct its advertisement about Yaz, which took lightly the chances of health risks, like blood clots, while aggressively stating the drug’s capabilities and endorsing it even without prescription.

This was followed by a mandate in 2012 in which the FDA ordered Bayer to modify its U.S. labeling on Yaz by including (on the label) the chances of greater risks for blood clots. Despite both moves from the FDA, Bayer maintained that Yaz and Yasmin were safe and effective. Health Canada, on the other hand, seemed to dismiss all cases of adverse effects, as well as the deaths of the 23 women, by stating that the benefits brought about by the Bayer’s contraceptives still outweigh the risks associated with them.

Some of the recorded adverse side effects caused by Yaz include migraine-like headaches, less sexual drive, anaphylaxis or severe type I hypersensitivity, fluctuations in glucose level resulting to diabetes, hypertension, blood clots, swelling of breasts, breast discharge, numbness in arms and legs, vaginal irritation, gallbladder injuries, deep vein thrombosis (DVT), cerebrovascular accidents (CVA), myocardial infarction, heart attack, stroke, death.

Many more women are yet to come to the open to air their complaints about the negative effects they now suffer from due to Yaz or Yasmine. Though these Bayer products may have truly been beneficial in some ways, being pin-pointed as causes of adverse reactions and deaths is reason enough to take them out of circulation.

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