NuvaRing May Cause Blood Clots and Even Death — Yet Women Still Use It

Ever since the birth control device known as NuvaRing was approved in the United States in 2002, it's had some complications. Big complications. The Food and Drug Administration determined that there was a 56 percent increased risk of blood clots when compared with older birth-control pills. NuvaRing also faces about 3,500 lawsuits. Yet it garnered $623 million for its manufacturer, Merck, in 2012.

One mother told Vanity Fair writer-at-large Marie Brenner that her daughter, 24-year-old Erika Langhart, died of a pulmonary embolism in 2011 after using NuvaRing for 4 years. (The entire article is only available through a digital subscription.) The mother, Karen Langhart, says her daughter found herself gasping for breath one day. The doctor told her the vaginal birth-control ring was directly to blame.

“I want to warn every mother and every daughter: Do not use the product that killed my child,” Langhart says.

After studying health records of more than one million NuvaRing users, Dr. Øjvind Lidegaard of Denmark says that they are "more than six times as likely to develop blood clots as those who did not use hormonal contraceptives." NuvaRing is also fending off claims that its Dutch pharmaceutical creator Organon started marketing the product using a study that used only 16 women.

Lawyer Hunter Shkolnik, who is bringing lawsuits about NuvaRing against Merck, says that the original company, Organon, used subtle tactics to hide the information about blood clots from the FDA.

“This is a standard subterfuge used by Pharma,” he says. “You bury your bad news in one of 500 studies you have done on ease of use or lipid disorder. Then when the F.D.A. comes back to the drug company, the drug company can say, ‘You had it in your documents.’ If it isn’t in the 30-page summary, the F.D.A. is so understaffed it will never be noticed.”

Merck responded that while it vows to protect its patients' best interests, “Blood clots have long been known as a risk associated with combined hormonal contraceptives."

Meanwhile, famed lawyer Erin Brockovich is waging a war against permanent birth-control procedure Essure off the market, which 800 women have filed complaints against.

Maybe women should just stick to the proven methods of birth control before they start fiddling around up there. Unless, like Saturday Night Live says, you really want to "glam up that clam:"