Dustin Siggins

Former Olympic hopeful calls Merck’s NuvaRing settlement offer ‘laughable’

Dustin Siggins
Dustin Siggins

ROXBURY, CT, March 13, 2014 (LifeSiteNews.com) – Two years ago, Megan Henry was one of the nation's top athletes. A skeleton racer, she was training for the 2014 Olympics, with dreams of gold medals going through her mind.

Only months later, those dreams were dashed after Henry began using the contraceptive NuVaRing. She told local news that "within 10 days of taking it, I had a hard time breathing." She eventually went to several doctors and a hospital, where she found out she had “multiple blood clots in both lungs.” Henry says she missed a year of training, and would be at high risk should she become pregnant. 

Made by Merck Pharmaceuticals company Organon USA – acquired in 2009 after a merger with Schering-Plough Corp. – NuVaRing works through insertion into the vagina, and is supposed to remain inserted for three weeks at a time. According to the NuvaRing website (graphic content warning), side effects include blood clots, stroke, or heart attack. The website says that “the most common side effects reported by NuvaRing users are: vaginal infections and irritation, vaginal secretion, headache, weight gain, and nausea.”

After her 2012 experience, Henry joined nearly 4,000 other people in a class-action lawsuit against Merck, including plaintiffs who had lost family as a result of NuVaRing use. Last month, all plaintiffs were offered a $100 million national settlement. 

Henry told LifeSiteNews that amount isn't good enough. “Plaintiffs can either opt in or not, but the settlement is a laughable offer to rectify damages, considering Merck brings in over $4 billion in profit. A settlement offer of $100 million across nearly 4 thousand people is hardly compensation.” 

“Just for comparison's sake, other birth controls such as Yaz paid out over a billion dollars in settlements,” says Henry. She also pointed to how “95 percent of the victims have to accept the settlement. If 95 percent do not accept, there is no settlement.” Merck spokesperson Lainie Keller verified this to LifeSiteNews, noting that “if at least 95 percent of eligible participants as specified in the settlement agreement do not opt into the Settlement, Organon (Merck) is not obligated to proceed with the Settlement or fund the Settlement.” 

In 2013, Merck competitor Bayer AG agreed to a settlement worth more than $1.6 billion over accusations its Yaz and Yasmin contraceptive pills caused blood clotting. 

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According to Merck's settlement website, NuVaRing was created in 2001 and put on the market the following year. The class-action lawsuit was launched in August 2008, after multiple lawsuits were put into one larger effort. 

It appears that the full $100 million will not be seen by plaintiffs. The lead negotiatior for the plaintiffs, St. Louis attorney Roger Denton, said in a written statement that while he thinks the settlement is “an outstanding result and in the best interests of all the women who have suffered an injury associated with the use of NuvaRing,” between $30 million and $40 million will be spent on lawyer fees and expenses. 

“It will be hard [to accept the settlement],” said Henry. “A lot of families who lost daughters are just heartbroken. They feel they cannot morally accept the compensation, and other people just feel they can not accept knowing that Merck is essentially getting away with murder.”

“But there is not likely to be any opportunity to fight this in the future,” she admitted. “It is a very tangled web. You either accept, knowing that Merck is able to keep this product on the market with no repercussions, or you don't accept, and they still win. They win either way.”

The “opt-in” deadline for the settlement was March 10, but Merck's settlement website says that “several parties have requested brief extensions” that “have been granted.”

Henry told LifeSiteNews that “Merck should have been more honest with the dangers of NuvaRing, specifically by providing warning that represented the increased risk compared to other second and third generation birth controls.” 

“NuvaRing has a doubling of the risks for blood clotting incidents compared to other second and third generation contraceptives,” says Henry. She claims Merck, via Organon, knows this fact, but “continues to market the product in such a way that there is no increased risk," which she says "is not fair to the consumer.” 

Keller flatly denied Henry's claim, saying that “Merck has always acted responsibly with the marketing of NuVaRing, as we have with all of our medicines and vaccines.” 

“All combined hormonal contraceptives, including NuVaRing and combined oral contraceptives, are associated with an increased risk of [VTE],” said Keller. A VTE is a “venous thromboembolic event,” which Keller says includes “deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism.”

She cited a company study and a U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) study she says “found that the risk of blood clots for new users of NuVaRing is similar to the risk for new users of” combined oral contraceptives.

She also said “all [combined hormonal contraceptives], including NuVaRing, have a Boxed Warning on the increased risk of serious cardiovascular events.” She pointed to how “the FDA-approved patient information and the physician package labeling for NuVaRing” have provided such information “since the product was approved in 2001.” Keller says updates were made in October 2013 to account for how NuVaRing's new users are at “similar ... risk [of blood clots]” as “new users of combined oral contraceptives.”

In a previous e-mail correspondence, Merck spokesperson Keller did tell LifeSiteNews that out of 10,000 women who might take NuVaRing and are not on “combined hormonal contraceptives” (CHC), a year later “1 to 5 of these women will develop a VTE.”

She also told LifeSiteNews that “if 10,000 women who use a CHC” do so in addition to using NuVaRing, “3 to 12 women will develop a VTE.” Women at highest risk are those “who are postpartum,” meaning 12 weeks past delivery. Of 10,000 women, “40 to 65 will develop a VTE” in one year.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), generations of contraceptives are separated by hormonal types and dosages, as well as time of release. WHO says “pills with first-generation progestogens are more likely to produce unacceptable side-effects,” and were released over 40 years ago. Second-generation contraceptives were put on the market in the 1970s, and third-generation in the 1980s. WHO says second-generation contraceptives are more expensive, but “are similar in terms of effectiveness and of side-effects.”

Henry believes “the FDA should make [Merck] beef up their warning label, so women will think twice about using NuVaRing.” She also says “doctors are unaware of [NuVaRing's] dangers, so it is frightening to think what the consequences may be for patients if the doctor does not seem to have any worry about the risks.”

The Merck settlement offer comes at a time of increased public awareness about the dangers of contraception, including a documentary from TV star Ricki Lake about hormonal contraceptives and a 10,000-word essay in Vanity Fair about the NuVaRing lawsuit.

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Dr. Miriam Grossman speaks to large audience in Mississauga, Ontario Steve Jalsevac/LifeSite
Lianne Laurence

VIDEO: How DO you to talk to kids about sex? US sex-ed critic gives practical tips

Lianne Laurence
By Lianne Laurence

MISSISSAUGA, ON, August 27, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) – Talking to their children about sex is “anxiety provoking to say the least,” for parents, says American sex-ed expert, Dr. Miriam Grossman.

“Some people just can’t even do it, and that’s okay,” the New York-based psychiatrist told the crowd of 1,000 who packed a Mississauga conference hall August 18 to hear her critique of the Ontario Liberal government’s controversial sex-ed curriculum.

After Grossman explained how the Liberal sex-ed curriculum is dangerously flawed and ideologically driven, she used the question-and-answer session to give parents much appreciated and sometimes humorous practical advice on how to teach their children about “the birds and the bees.”

“If you feel you can’t do it, maybe there’s someone else in the family or in the constellation of people that you know you can trust that could do it,” said Grossman, author of “You’re teaching my child WHAT?” and an internationally sought-after speaker on sex education.

A child, adolescent and adult psychiatrist with 12 years’ clinical experience treating students at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) clinic, Grossman said explaining sexuality and procreation to children is “a process,” that “shouldn’t ideally happen all at once. A child is not a miniature adult, and absorbs…new information differently than adults do.”

And parents need to be sure just what their child wants to know.

To illustrate this, Grossman referred to her earlier story about a father who gave his son every detail on human procreation after the boy asked him, “Dad, where do I come from?”

After the father finished, his son replied, “Well, that’s funny, because Johnny told me that he came from Montreal.”

“Try to find out what your child is really getting at, and, don’t give it all at once,” Grossman said. “You start with a little bit at a time…and you know, there’s so many variables here, and people have their own traditions and their own ways of explaining things, and something that might be right for my family might not be right for your family.”

She also advised that, when confronted with a four, five, six or seven-year-old asking about a pregnant woman, or where babies come, a parent can ask, “What a good question that is. What do you think?”

And parents can also legitimately put off the discussion when appropriate, telling the child, “That’s really not something you need to know about right now.”

“Wow, what a novel idea: Telling a child that they could wait until they’re older to discuss that subject,” Grossman said, adding that parents wouldn’t brook a six- or even fifteen-year-old child asking how much money they made or had in the bank. “Excuse me? Not every subject has to be an open book.”

However, the time will come when a child needs to know “about how her body’s going to change, about reproduction, about how a new life is created.”

That time, Grossman advised, is puberty, or “as puberty is beginning,” and this is especially so for girls, who, if unprepared for the surprise onset of menstruation “might think [they’re] dying.”

“The actual nitty-gritty about the birds and the bees and intercourse” can “be told in bits and pieces, or it can be told all at once, if you feel it’s necessary,” she said, adding that it’s beneficial if the parent acknowledges his or her awkwardness, because the child will think: “This must be such an important subject that my mother or my father is sitting there squirming, but he’s doing it anyway. I’m really loved.”

“And the children need to understand that as you grow up, you change a lot, not only physically but emotionally,” Grossman said, “and what may seem odd or disgusting when you’re ten years old, or whatever age, it becomes something very special and beautiful when you’re older and you’ll understand it later. You don’t have to understand it now.”


Know your child and guard your home

But as an essential foundation for this discussion, parents must both know their children and guard their home from the encroachments of a culture that Grossman described as “very, very sexualized” and “really horrible.”

“Children need parents who are loving but are also firm and authoritative,” she asserted.  “They don’t need best friends. They need us to guide them, to know what they’re doing, to be on top of what they’re doing.

So parents need to be aware of whom their child is “hanging around with, and what kind of movies are they watching…what’s going on with your child.”

“You need to know that anyway, even if it’s not about sex education,” she pointed out. “Try and know your child. Every child is different.”

And Grossman emphasized that it is “extremely important to be careful about what your child is exposed to in the home, in terms of television and Internet, obviously.”

Children need to understand that “just like you have garbage you take out of the house, you put it in the garbage bin, it’s dirty, it smells…there are other things that also don’t belong in the house.”

And children learn quickly what is, and is not, permissible inside the home, Grossman said. “Me, I keep kosher…If I go into a store, my kids know from a very young age, we don’t eat that.”

So they are used to the idea of “the world outside and the inside world, of inside your home, and inside your heart as well.”

Parents can also convey this by telling their children that “the world is an upside-down place, and sometimes the most special, holy subjects are…just thrown in the gutter. And that’s a bad thing. In our family, in our tradition, we don’t do that.”

“Sexuality is one of the subjects that in this upside-down world, it is sometimes just in the gutter,” she said. “And so I want you to tell your child to come to me when you have questions, I will give you the straight story about it.”

Grossman herself is “not even sure,” as she stated in her seminar, that sex education should be in the schools: “I believe sex education should be at home for those parents that want to do it.”

She also noted that parents “can make mistakes. We all make lots of mistakes but it’s okay, you can always come back and do it differently,” adding that this is “another wonderful message for your child. You know what, it’s okay to make mistakes, you can always go back and try and fix it.”

Grossman urged parents to visit her Facebook page, website and blog. “I have so much information you can get there that you’ll find useful,” and added that she will be publishing books for children, and has posted her critique of New York City’s sex-ed curriculum, which is similar to Ontario’s.

The parental backlash to that sex-ed curriculum, set to roll out in the province’s publicly funded schools this September, has been “amazing” Grossman noted.

Grossman’s seminar was sponsored by Mississauga-based HOWA Voice of Change along with the Canadian Families Alliance, an umbrella group representing more than 25 associations and 200,000 Ontarians opposed to the curriculum. The report on her devastating critique of the sex-ed curriculum can be found here, and the video here.

Ontario readers may find information and sign up for a September 2 province-wide protests at MPPs offices here. So far, there are protests planned for 92 of Ontario’s 107 constituencies. The parents’ movement seeking removal of the curriculum is urging all concerned citizens to join this special effort to influence individual Ontario legislators.

See related reports:

Ontario’s dangerous sex-ed is indoctrination not science says U.S. psychiatrist to large audience

Videos: US psychiatrist tells parents “stand firm” against dangerous sex-ed

See the LifeSiteNews feature page on the Ontario sex-ed curriculum containing nearly 100 LifeSite articles related to the issue

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Pete Baklinski Pete Baklinski Follow Pete

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Did the pope just endorse a gay children’s book? Of course not, says Vatican

Pete Baklinski Pete Baklinski Follow Pete
By Pete Baklinski

ROME, August 28, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- While mainstream media is gushing with news today that Pope Francis allegedly praised a children’s book that promotes gender theory, the Vatican is decrying what they called the "manipulation" of a cordial letter from an official in the Secretariat of State to suggest that the Vatican is promoting teachings contrary to the Gospel.

Italian children’s author Francesca Pardi was reported by The Guardian to have submitted a parcel of children’s books promoting the acceptance of homosexuality and gender theory to Pope Francis in June after Venice’s mayor Luigi Brugnaro publicly banned the author’s newest book, Piccolo Uovo (Little Egg), from children’s schools. The book was criticized by pro-family leaders for promoting non-natural family structures of two men and two women.

In a letter accompanying the books, Pardi wrote: “Many parishes across the country are in this period sullying our name and telling falsehoods about our work which deeply offends us. We have respect for Catholics. ... A lot of Catholics give back the same respect, why can’t we have the whole hierarchy of the church behind us?”

The Guardian is reporting that Pardi has now “found an unlikely supporter in Pope Francis,” who through his staff has responded to the author and is presented as “praising her work.” It quotes the following from a July 9 letter to Pardi from the Vatican.

“His holiness is grateful for the thoughtful gesture and for the feelings which it evoked, hoping for an always more fruitful activity in the service of young generations and the spread of genuine human and Christian values,” wrote Peter B. Wells, a senior official at the Vatican Secretariat of State, in a the letter The Guardian is reporting it has seen.  

While the letter gently calls the author to use her talents to spread “genuine human and Christian values,” The Guardian takes it as the pope’s endorsement of gender theory.

“Pope Francis sends letter praising gay children's book,” the paper’s headline states. “Italian book that explores different family types including same sex was banned by mayor of Venice, but pontiff becomes unlikely supporter,” reads the subtitle.

In a press release that Vatican spokesman Fr. Federico Lombardi sent to LifeSiteNews on Friday, the vice speaker of the Vatican, Ciro Benedettini, made clear that the friendly reply letter to the author in no way approves of attitudes or positions that are contrary to Catholic teaching and the Gospels.

The Vatican's statement also says that in the original letter from the secretariat of state Wells merely "acknowledged receipt" of the materials sent by Pardi, and also made clear that the letter was private and not meant for publication. 

"In no way does a letter from the Secretary of State intend to endorse behaviors and teachings not in keeping with the Gospel," says the statement, decrying the "manipulation" of the letter.

Benedettini said the blessing of the pope at the end of the letter was meant to be for the author herself, and not to affirm positions concerning gender theory that are contrary to the Church's teaching. Using the letter to this end is erroneous, he said.

Pope Francis has strongly condemned the notion of “gender theory” on numerous occasions, saying that it is an “error of the human mind that leads to so much confusion.”

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Lisa Bourne

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Poll suggests most US Catholics wrongly believe Pope Francis backs gay ‘marriage’

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne

August 28, 2015 (LifeSiteNews) -- A considerable majority of U.S. Catholics are in conflict with Church teaching on abortion and marriage, a new study says, and a startling number of those also believe Pope Francis backs homosexual “marriage.”

Despite Church teachings, Catholics in America also closely parallel the general populace in their support for abortion and homosexual “marriage,” falling short in the Biblical call to be “in the world but not of the world.”

The findings suggest what many Catholics have said is a climate of confusion in the midst of the Francis pontificate. Concerns over that confusion prompted a coalition of pro-family groups to respond with an international petition effort asking the pope to reaffirm Church teaching, drawing more than a half-million signatures.

The survey, conducted by Public Religions Research Institute, found that 60 percent of all U.S. Catholics favor legalized homosexual “marriage,” compared to 55 percent of all Americans. Likewise, 51 percent of Catholics think that abortion should be legal in all or most cases, with 53 percent of the general population holding this view.

The Catholic Church teaches that marriage is a sacramental union between one man and one woman, mirroring Christ and the Church respectively as bridegroom and bride.

The Church also teaches that life begins at conception, that each human life possesses dignity as a child of God and is to be afforded protection, making abortion an intrinsic evil.

Catholics, accounting for 22 percent of adults in the U.S. population, have a favorable view of Pope Francis, the study said, but they are very confused about his take on homosexual “marriage.”

Of the Catholics who back homosexual “marriage,” 49-percent also think the leader of the Catholic Church backs it along with them. Fifteen percent of those Catholics who oppose homosexual “marriage” also mistakenly believe Pope Francis supports it.

Pope Francis has made numerous statements in support of life, marriage and family, but the confusion remains.

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"After Ireland and the U.S. Supreme Court both approved same-sex 'marriage,' a strong reaffirmation of Church teaching could save the sacred institution of marriage, strengthen the family and dispel the lies of the homosexual revolution," TFP Student Action Director John Ritchie stated.  "Young Catholics -- even non-Catholics -- look to the Church as a beacon of morality and stability in our Godless culture, but some of our shepherds have issued confusing statements."

TFP Student Action is a part of the lay Catholic organization American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property, and is part of the alliance behind the Filial Appeal, the petition asking the Holy Father to reinforce Catholic teaching at the Vatican’s upcoming Synod on the Family in October.

Ritchie explained how the confusion was aiding the Church’s enemies, and warned of the potential consequences.

"This prayerful petition asks Pope Francis to clear up the moral confusion that's been spreading against Natural and Divine Law," he said. "If the enemies of the family continue to chip away at holy matrimony, the future of the family and civilization itself will be in even more serious peril."

At press time more than 500,000 signature had been gathered for the appeal, including five cardinals, 117 bishops and hundreds of well-known civic leaders.

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