Thousands of women may win settlements in product liability lawsuits against Bayer relating to their popular birth control pill, Yaz or Yasmin. Sources close to the ongoing precedings indicate that Bayer will settle thousands of claims within a year.
Over the past few years, several studies have linked Yaz to blood clotting in patients and the drug has also been implicated in several deaths. A 2011 study by the FDA showed that women taking Yaz or similar medication saw their risk of developing blood clots rise by 74%.
According to Bloomberg News, Bayer has agreed to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in settlements. The average settlement is reported to be more than $200,000. The agreement allows Bayer to avoid going to trial over claims that Bayer marketed Yaz as safer than its rivals while knowing it increased the risk of blood clotting.
“Bayer HealthCare confirms that some cases pending in the current YAZ/Yasmin litigation in the U.S. are being settled,” Rosemarie Yancosek, a U.S. spokeswoman for the drugmaker, said in an e-mail statement to Bloomberg News.
Bayer has already settled nearly 1,500 of the more than 9,000 lawsuits that have already been filed against it. Bayer is reported to have agreed to more than $300 million in payouts so far. The special master, a role similar to a mediator, has said that many of the cases will be settle over the next year.
“So far, so good,” said Stephen Saltzburg in an interview with the Madison Record on the status of the litigation. “I am cautiously optimistic that we will settle all of these cases. There are always some holdouts, but I think we will settle the bulk of these cases in the next year.”
For a while, Yaz was the most popular birth control on the market and Bayer’s highest seller. The drug was marketed as “Super Pill”, with media outlets jumping on the drug maker’s claims that Yaz could combat the PMS, painful menstrual symptoms, and even acne. The FDA released reports showing these claims were “misleadingly overstate(d).” Bayer agreed to spend $20 million in corrective advertising saying the drug was not for general PMS symptoms or mild acne.
Despite the poor publicity caused by the deaths, illnesses, studies and lawsuits, not only is Yaz still available, it’s the fourth most popular oral contraceptive. In 2010, Bayer made more than $1.5 billion from its millions of prescriptions of Yaz. On April 10, 2012, the FDA began requiring Yaz and other drugs that contain the chemical drospirenone to add warning labels that the chemical may be associated with a higher risk for blood clots.
The fact that studies from Bayer-supported laboratories showed no difference in blood clotting risk when independent studies showed otherwise has led many to question openly the current lab testing systems. In what is standard practice in the pharmaceutical industry, Bayer financially supports the the laboratories that do their product testing. This makes a conflict of interest an inherent part of the program.
In an interview with ABC News, Columbia University medical ethicist David Rothman said, “We have got to look at drug studies published by the company producing the products with a lot of suspicion. They have too much skin in the game.”
The Yaz Lawsuit is currently underway at a Multidistrict Litigation Court in Illinois. The federal government sets up a multidistrict litigation court to streamline civil litigation that covers a large number of people in different parts of the country. The trial is currently in the discovery phase and it is still possible for those who took Yaz and experienced blood clot related injuries to be included in the suit.
New Studies Find Yaz More Risky Than Other Leading Birth Control Pills: ABC News Investigates.