PARIS, March 27, 2013 ( – A study by France’s health and drug safety agency comparing the health risks of first and second generation contraceptive pills to third and fourth generation oral contraceptives found that the deaths of 20 French women per year were linked to contraceptive pill use. 

The French National Agency for the Safety of Drugs and Health Products (ANSM) found that between 2000 and 2011, contraceptive pills were linked to an average of 2,529 annual cases of venous thromboembolism (blood clots). The health watchdog also found that the newer generation pills caused more than twice as many deaths as the earlier pills. 

The ANSM's undated study estimated that 14 of the 20 annual deaths were caused by the third and fourth generation pills which contain the synthetic progestin drospirenone. The drug is produced and marketed by Bayer Pharmaceuticals under such trade names as Yaz, Beyaz, Yasmin, and Safyral. 


The ANSM attributed the other six annual deaths of French women to the use of first and second-generation contraceptive pills.

The British Medical Journal published two studies in early 2011 that indicated these newer birth control pills carried a two to three times greater risk for venous thromboembolism compared to the older generation of pills. 

Professor Oejvind Lidegaard of Copenhagen University Hospital, leader of one of the studies, said, “We found that contraceptive pills are generally more dangerous than previously believed, and that the difference between the second, and the third and fourth generation, is somewhat larger than we had thought.”

The dangers of the older generations of contraceptive pills are outlined in the Physicians Desk Reference (PDR) which states that users of birth control are three times more likely to develop superficial venous thrombosis, and have a 4 to 11 times greater risk for deep vein thrombosis or pulmonary embolism than non-users. The risk goes up by a factor of 1.5 – 6 for those women who are genetically predisposed to blood clots.

In summary, the PDR notes that, “An increased risk of thromboembolic and thrombotic disease associated with the use of oral contraceptives is well established.”

In the wake of a widely publicized lawsuit by a 25-year-old French woman who was severely disabled by a stroke attributed to the use of a third generation oral contraceptive, the French health ministry called on doctors to prescribe the pills only “in very specific circumstances,” and delisted the third and fourth generation pills from the list of drugs covered by the national health plan, according to a France24 report

The lawsuit was filed in December 2012 by Marion Larat against Bayer Pharmaceuticals and ANSM’s general director. 

She says that as an 18 year old she began taking the Bayer brand contraceptive pill called Meliane. Three months after beginning the use of the drug, a clot formed in her brain that resulted in a massive stroke. Larat lapsed into a coma and has since undergone intensive physiotherapy and nine different surgeries, France24 reported. 

An inquiry in June 2012, determined that the stroke suffered by Larat was directly linked to her use of the Meliane contraceptive pill. 

French media also reported that soon after Larat's lawsuit was publicized, 30 other women filed similar lawsuits against Bayer. 


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