Several FDA groups met on December 8 to review warnings on Bayer’s five drospirenone-containing birth control pills. This meeting is the product of several months of mounting evidence that these birth control pills are unreasonably dangerous, particularly in light of safer alternatives.
First a review: Bayer (through Berlex, a company later enveloped by Bayer) developed and released Yasmin in May 2001. Ocella, manufactured by Barr Laboratories, is the generic of Yasmin. These drugs contain an active progestin ingredient to help prevent ovulation. Many other birth control pills contain the progestin levonorgestrel, but Yasmin and Ocella use the newer (and less tested) “fourth-generation” progestin known as drospirenone.
Yaz was approved by the FDA in 2006, and that’s when the heavy marketing (and sales) really took off. Bayer wasn’t actually printing money, and they didn’t have a printing press in their basement, but this was the closest thing to it. Yaz marketing was calculatingly directed at women’s sense of individuality and freedom. Nefariously, it was also directed to uses not approved by the FDA, including PMS, bloating, muscle fatigue and aches. Because of the excellent marketing campaign, Yaz and Yasmin profits were $998 million in 2008.