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New Contraceptive May Also Have Blood Clot Risks

Mar 2, 2003 | The Los Angeles Times

Doctors have been debating whether the newest birth control pills are any safer than their predecessors.

One of them, a contraceptive called Yasmin that's been available in the United States since 2001, is attracting particular attention because of reports that European users have suffered blood clots in their legs and lungs.

Like other contraceptive pills, Yasmin contains both estrogen and progesterone. But it uses a new, synthetic version of progesterone that closely resembles the progesterone made by a woman's body. Because it is chemically related to a diuretic called spironolactone, it also acts like a water pill and reduces bloating. And it helps lessen acne and oily skin.

Dutch authorities recently reported on five cases in which females taking Yasmin developed serious blood clots, including a 17-year-old girl who collapsed and died after taking the pills for six months. An autopsy revealed she had suffered a pulmonary embolism, a clot in her lung, despite having no such risk factors, as smoking, immobilization for a long period or plane travel.

The five cases were described in the Feb. 1 issue of the British Medical Journal. They are among 40 European Yasmin users who suffered major clots two fatal first reported in the British journal in April 2002. That report led to several European warnings about the pill, manufactured by Berlex Laboratories, a unit of Germany's Schering. The pill has been available in Europe since late 2000.

Dr. David Plourd, an assistant professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the Naval Medical Center in San Diego, said he was concerned that several of the Dutch women suffered clots so soon after starting the medication. "If they'd been on it for 10 years and then threw a blood clot, it's less likely to be due to the Yasmin," he said.

Dr. Philip Darney, chief of obstetrics and gynecology at San Francisco General Hospital, said he was unaware of any similar complications in this country. "We may not have had a broad enough experience with Yasmin in the U.S. to have seen any of this yet," he said.

Darney said he hoped physicians and patients would be interested in several new contraceptive options, including the vaginal ring and an intrauterine device, which have "much lower doses than birth control pills."

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