Wednesday, February 07, 2007
3G birth control a difficult pill to swallow...
This morning, we reported about a recent petition by Public Citizen about birth control pills. The consumer advocacy group is calling for all third-generation birth control pills (the newest kind) containing desogestrel to be banned. (Full Story) Its concern: These pills can double the risk of life-threatening blood clots. (See the list of medications Public Citizen is concerned about).
The blood clots, besides being painful, can travel to the lung and cause severe shock or death. We found studies dating back to 1995 that validated this increased risk of blood clots. In fact, the FDA publicly announced the higher blood clot risk years ago, yet the drugs still remain on the market.
According to the national prescription drug audit, 7.5 million prescriptions were filled last year. So why are these medications still available? As with most things, you have to dig a little deeper for the answer.
First of all, keep in mind the absolute numbers are very small. The risk of having a blood clot while taking the second-generation birth control pills was about 1 per 1,000 users and went up to around 2 per 1,000 on the third generation (according to a 2001 report in the New England Journal of Medicine). Also, some women find the third-generation pills to be a better pill. They don't get as sick while taking them, compared with some of the older pills.
Public Citizen cites a slightly lower blood clot rate but says there are no additional benefits to the third generation pills compared with the older pills.
So, what is the FDA's role here? Should they remove the pills from the market or is this more a case of buyer beware?
ABOUT THE BLOGGet a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN's chief medical correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends -- info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.
PREVIOUS POSTS• Planting the seeds of change
• Faces and races: Maybe we're all a bit blind
• Three questions for your doctor
• Battered athletes may suffer the consequences
• A beautiful addition to the family
• The perfect meal
• Women's heart disease still poorly understood
• Doctor Salisu's Hospital
• Injecting your way to a younger face
• Overcoming Asperger's Syndrome