Student death linked to controversial YAZ contraceptive

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A Johnson State College student’s death has been linked to a controversial contraceptive pill. Rebecca Bapp, a member of JSC’s External Degree Program, died Nov. 12 from a blood clot in her heart. She was 21 years old.

Bapp, a resident of Brownington, began suffering from breathing problems while working at the Community College of Vermont in Newport on Nov. 12. Her parents brought her to North Country Hospital in Newport, where doctors planned to transport her to the Dartmouth Hitchcock Medical Center in Lebanon, New Hampshire.

During the doctors’ examination, Bapp coded three times. The third time, doctors were unable to resuscitate her.

An autopsy found her secondary cause of death to be her oral contraceptive, Ocella, better known by its generic brand name, YAZ. YAZ and its sister drug, Yazmin, were the second best-selling drugs for pharmaceutical company Bayer in 2010, with $1.58 billion in sales.

YAZ has been suspected in deaths around the country, according to the Public Citizens Health Research Group. YAZ is on the group’s list of drugs not to use. YAZ can increase blood levels of potassium, while being no more effective in birth control than peer drugs.

A November article in Bloomberg states that over 10,000 lawsuits have been filed against YAZ for various side-effects.

The Food and Drug Administration approved YAZ in 2006. This new contraceptive was separated from its predecessors by a key ingredient, drospirenone, a hormone that prior contraceptives did not contain.

Recent articles in the British Medical Journal reported a two- to three-times greater risk of blood clots and other serious issues in women taking oral contraceptives containing drospirenone. Angeliq, Beyaz, Gianvi, Safryal and Zarah are other contraceptives containing drospirenone.

Several studies conducted by the FDA have produced mixed results, with certain students suggesting an increased risk of blood clots, stroke and other problems from taking YAZ, and others finding no such increase.

Ocella has been the subject of federal advisory committee meetings through November and December. Former FDA commissioner David Kessler said Bayer failed to include an analysis demonstrating “an increase in the U.S. reporting rate” for blood clots during the FDA’s 2004 review of Yasmin’s safety.

The committee’s meetings will determine whether the drug is safe to market. Its findings will be posted on the FDA website.

Consumers are urged to report serious issues with oral contraceptives to the FDA’s MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting program at (800) FDA-1088, or online at www.accessdata.fda.gov/scripts/medwatch/medwatch-online.tm.

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