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Drospirenone Birth Control Pills Linked to Irritable Bowel Syndrome

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A new study has found that a widely prescribed class of contraceptive products containing a synthetic hormone known as drospirenone may increase the risk for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a chronic condition that involves symptoms such as severe abdominal pain, discomfort, bloating, and altered bowel habits. The study was conducted earlier this year by researchers at the University of British Columbia. Drospirenone-containing birth control pills include Yaz, Yasmin, Ocella, Gianvi and Beyaz.

What’s the problem?

June 26, 2012 – For the study, researchers analyzed data on nearly one million women between the ages of 18 and 46, and concluded that they were almost twice as likely to be diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome after initiating a regimen of drospirenone-based birth control pills than women who took products containing levonorgestrel, a ‘third generation’ progestin found in many older types of contraceptives. Approximately 0.77% of all patients who took drospirenone would be diagnosed with IBS within three months of starting it, compared with just 0.46% of women on levonorgestrel, the research determined.

Drospirenone was first introduced in 2001 in Yasmin, a birth control pill that combines the progestin with ethinyl estradiol to prevent unwanted pregnancy. An updated version of the drug known as Yaz was approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) in 2006. More recently, a third version known as Beyaz – which includes an additional folate supplement – was introduced. Generic versions of Yaz and Yasmin are now available under a variety of different trade names.

As a result of Bayer’s aggressive marketing tactics directed at young women, Yaz and Yasmin quickly became hugely successful, cornering a large share of the market for combination oral contraceptives (COCs). However, in recent years, concerns have emerged about the safety and efficacy of drospirenone-based contraceptives, including research that suggests users face an increased risk of blood clots with the drugs, which could be reduced with the use of older forms of birth control pills.

Bayer currently faces thousands of lawsuits filed on behalf of women who allege that the company was negligent in failing to adequately warn the public about the serious side effects associated with its birth control products. While new reports suggest that Bayer may be in the settlement phase for Yaz and Yasmin lawsuits, the drugmaker continues to face an ever-increasing number of claims involving the drugs, and lawyers continue to file new cases on behalf of women around the country.

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