By Stephanie Stahl
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A growing number of complaints about a popular form of birth control that some say is causing serious health problems. Now, consumer advocate Erin Brochovich says Congress needs to get involved. 3 On Your Side Health Reporter Stephanie Stahl explains.
For months, Tanya Lovis suffered with mysterious pain. The mother of two says the symptoms were so severe she could barely tolerate doing even basic things.
“I was literally walking around hunched over holding onto my stomach,” said Tanya. For ten months doctors couldn’t figure out what was wrong. Tanya started researching online and found that she wasn’t alone.
“And that’s when I put two and two together,” said Tanya.
Women also started reaching out to activist Erin Brockovich.
“Let’s look at these women’s story,” said Brockovich.
The stories are concerns about a permanent form of contraception called Essure. The product’s claim? It’s more effective than tying your tubes, and is surgery-free. Coils are inserted into the fallopian tubes. Tissue then grows around the coils and seals the tubes.
“They said you’ll have a little bit of cramping afterwards and you can go back to work tomorrow. Clearly these things did something to me and I knew it,” said Tanya. She was eventually told she needed radical surgery.
Brockovich says she heard similar complaints from other women.
“So I started a website and was actually very overwhelmed how quickly it built from 50 to a couple hundred to now thousands of stories of women,” said Brochovich. She says when the FDA approved Essure, it gave the product what’s known as a pre-emption status, meaning women who feel they’ve suffered because of Essure cannot sue Bayer.
“This is a law that will protect the company and if the product’s defective, the people who’ve been harmed by it basically have no recourse. That’s not fair,” said Brockovich. She hopes to collect five thousand signatures on her website from women who’ve had problems with Essure. She wants lawmakers in Washington to take another look at the pre-emption.
Bayer says Essure was approved by the FDA in 2002, and is used by 750,000 women worldwide. The company also says Essure has a well-documented benefit-risk profile, with over 400 peer-reviewed publications and abstracts supporting Essure’s safety, efficacy and cost-effectiveness.
Gynecologist Amanda Yunker thinks Essure is safe, and says she hasn’t heard of many complications but acknowledges it’s not for everyone.
“When I started taking them out and found that their pain resolved, then we realized that, yes, Essure can cause pain in a small subset of patients,” said Dr. Yunker.
After a full hysterectomy, which included removing Essure coils, Tanya says her pain has disappeared.
“Oh, I feel amazing. I feel like a new woman. I feel like they’ve replaced my body with another woman’s body,” said Tanya.
Bayer also says no form of birth control is without risk or should be considered appropriate for every woman.
For more information, visit the links below:
Birth Control Information- http://womenshealth.gov/publications/our-publications/fact-sheet/birth-control-methods.cfm
Essure Information- http://www.essure.com/
Erin Brockovich- http://www.brockovich.com/