Patchy problems

By DEIRDRE FULTON  |  July 18, 2007

Just as intrauterine devices (IUDs) suffered for years — and still do — from the stigma they acquired during the Dalkon Shield incident, when the T-shaped copper device caused infections and eventually led to a $2.5 billion lawsuit, the birth-control patch is hurting from negative publicity today.

The Ortho-Evra patch, which is the color of a Band-Aid, about an inch square, and has to be changed once a week, was a popular option when it was first introduced, despite the cruddy, sticky residue it would leave on your thigh, or wherever you chose to place it (full disclosure: I was a brief patch user).

But starting in 2005, news reports and lawsuits began to pop up, alleging that the patch caused blood clots and strokes — and in some cases, death — in otherwise healthy women.

In 2006, the manufacturer had to place a new warning on its product: “Hormones from patches applied to the skin get into the blood stream and are removed from the body differently than hormones from birth control pills taken by mouth. You will be exposed to about 60% more estrogen if you use Ortho-Evra than if you use a typical birth control pill containing 35 micrograms (mcg) of estrogen. In general, increased estrogen exposure may increase the risk of side effects.”

In this area, use of the patch has decreased about 50 percent in two years, says Cheryl Gibson, medical director of Planned Parenthood Northern New England. “The scare has been enough to drive both patients and health providers away from the patch. I’m not sure that’s ever going to get reversed.”

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  Topics: Lifestyle Features , Health and Fitness, Medicine, Sexual and Reproductive Health,  More more >
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