Women taking at-risk contraceptive pills

Are women sufficiently well-informed about the risks associated with different types of contraception? Keystone

Gynaecologists are still prescribing contraceptive pills with a heightened risk of thrombosis. Research by Swiss public television, SRF, shows little has been learnt from high-profile cases of women suffering severe side-effects, and even death.

This content was published on June 29, 2016 - 14:45 and SRF

Last autumn a 27-year-old woman who had been taking the Yasminelle contraceptive pill for six months died from a blood clot in the vein. She’s not the first.

Generally speaking, the authorities now recommend a ‘second generation’ pill that only has half of the risk of thrombosis compared with a more recently introduced pill. This is a reaction to research studies and the case in 2009 of a young woman called Celine. A 16-year-old, she had been taking the pill Yasmin, and was left severely disabled after developing a blood clot in the lung.

Yasmin and Yasminelle were no longer among the top ten most-prescribed pills (and hormone patches) in Switzerland according to 2015 statistics from Interpharma, the association of research pharmaceutical companies in Switzerland.

But statistics obtained by SRF for 2016 show that just 22.8% of the top ten contraceptive pills in Switzerland are second generation products. Over three-quarters of women are taking pills from the newest generation, some of which do not yet have any data on how high the risk of thrombosis is.

Stephan Krähenbühl, the president of the Swissmedic expert commission on medication licensing and pharmacology at Basel University hospital expressed his concern.

“Although Yasmin is no longer among the most-prescribed, seven out of the ten pills [on the 2015 list] have an equally high risk [of thrombosis] as Yasmin, or are pills where we do not yet know the level of risk.” He concluded that in seven out of the ten most prescribed pills, Yasmin could just as well be prescribed.

David Ehm, president of the Swiss association of gynecologists said that all of the pills in question are “well tested products”. He added, “One has to be aware that they all have their advantages and disadvantages.” Ehm commented that the benefit taking the pill can have on the complexion is very important to women, and that women are well informed by doctors about the risks.

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