Off the Record: Birth control method is bad news

Everybody knows there are risks any time a new form of medication is used to repair the biology of our bodies.

Everybody knows there are risks any time a new form of medication is used to repair the biology of our bodies.

There is a physical cost with all medications when we begin tampering with nature, and it’s important to decide if that cost — those new symptoms — will be less harmful than the ones being masked or subdued.

The anger women around the world feel about the death of Erika Langhart at the mere age of 24 from a pulmonary embolism has been illustrated in full colour following her tragic death in Virginia, U.S. after roughly four years of using the NuvaRing prescription.

According to Vanity Fair, the NuvaRing’s manufacturer, Merck, has made $623 million in sales of the flexible ring that’s inserted vaginally to release a combination of hormones. There were 830,000 women using the NuvaRing contraceptive method by 2010, according to the Guttmacher Institute, which is a non-profit that focuses on advancing sexual and reproductive health worldwide.

In fact, there are 10.5 million women using hormonal birth control pills for a plethora of reasons.

However, Merck is facing 3,500 lawsuits — including one from Erika Langhart’s mother, Karen, who is now on a quest to raise awareness about the product that killed her child through a non-profit she created in Erika’s memory for women using the potentially fatal contraceptive.

Merck may have offered the Langhart family a $100,000 settlement in damages, but that’s not enough.

Karen declined the settlement from Merck and believes the manufacturer of the NuvaRing should be held accountable for failing to warn women about the risks at hand. The Langhart family even printed “Cause of Passing: Massive, Double Pulmonary Embolism — a direct result of the NuvaRing” on programs at Erika’s funeral to urge others to avoid using this contraceptive.

It is quite suspicious given the similarities found in patients using this form of birth control, especially when Merck has been under fire in the media since 2011.

And then there were the problems faced by Megan Henry, who was also derailed by the diagnosis of blood clots developing in her lungs from the NuvaRing less than a year after Langhart’s death.

It is ironic that both girls knew each other but did not know the risks involved with using the NuvaRing.

Henry collapsed while training for the Olympics in Utah, U.S. and had an appointment with a pulmonologist after being prompted to question the incident by her family.

While it is inevitable to acknowledge that there are freak accidents of nature floating around the universe, the NuvaRing still poses an unfathomable 56 per cent increased rate of blood clots when compared to typical birth control pills.

I also realize the importance of modern medicine and how using it is at times unavoidable and necessary, but choosing a contraceptive remains an uphill battle that women continually need to fight.

The heightened risk of blood clots that have been linked to the NuvaRing have not yet forced Merck to pull its product from the market, so it’s important for the discussion about the lack of safety from using these hormones to continue in the public sphere, as it holds the potential to hear the whole story from Merck — and to make health care a safer place for women everywhere.

Breanne Massey is a reporter for The Valley Echo and can be reached at

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