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FDA issues warning on birth control patch

Nov 15, 2005 |

The Ortho Evra birth control patch exposes women to 60 percent more estrogen than birth control pills, which could severely increase risks for cardiovascular disease, according to a statement released Thursday by Ortho-McNeil pharmaceutical company.

Higher doses of hormones from the estrogen-related birth control methods may increase women's risks for blood clots and cardiovascular illness.

University Health Services (UHS) has filled 872 prescriptions for the patch since Jan. 1 and 5,699 prescriptions for birth control pills, the most popular form of birth control.

"We have known for a little while that there might be an issue of how estrogen is spread," said JoAnna Moyer, UHS clinical manager.

In light of the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) recent warning, Moyer said UHS hasn't stopped prescribing the patch but has been selective in prescribing it. They look for factors such as diabetes, high blood pressure and severe migraines when they prescribe the patch, Moyer said.

"UHS wouldn't refuse the patch to anyone," she said. "But we won't prescribe patch to smokers."

Linda Locke, women's health care nurse practitioner at American Women's Services, said the risk of the patch would be higher than the pill, but it is still a safe method of birth control.

Moyer said it's important for women to be educated on the risks associated with various birth control methods.

Locke agreed that it is important for women to go over the risk factors with their doctors before taking a method of birth control.

"Anyone prescribing the patch or the pill should go over the risks with women," she said. "For any woman, as long as she knows and understands the risks, it should be a decision with the health care provider and herself."

Locke cited another method of birth control, the Dalcon Shield, which was pulled off the market.

"It was a device inserted into the uterus and stays in the uterus for a certain amount of time," Locke said. "There were higher incidents of infection with the Dalcon Shield. Uterine infections can get into the tubes and cause severe infections and can affect future fertility."

Low risk alternative forms of birth control are available.

The vaginal ring is becoming more and more popular, Moyer said.

"So far it seems to be safe and there are no serious side effects," Moyer said.

Depro Vera, which is birth control in the form of a shot, is another popular form of birth control. This form does not contain estrogen.

"The FDA came out with a warning about a year ago saying that the shot can cause bone density problems and osteoporosis," she said.

The most popular form of birth control is the pill.

"Millions of women are on the pill," Moyer said. "It's safe for the overwhelming majority."

A low number of women react to the pill and usually reaction occurs when the patient has an undisclosed genetic defect, she said.

There is no way of knowing who will have adverse reactions to the pill, she added.

Kristin Schweighardt (sophomore-film) wasn't surprised to hear the news, but isn't deterred from using the patch.

"I probably would use it because the pill would have the same effects," she said.

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