Canadians launch birth control class action suit


Complaints range from strokes and heart problems to gall bladder removal

Megan Sarrazin
Intercamp (Grant McEwan University)

EDMONTON (CUP) — Two brands of birth control pills prescribed to roughly two million women in 2009 are being named in a national class action lawsuit alleging serious health side-effects to some of its prescribed users.

Yasmin and Yaz, both products of Bayer HealthCare Pharmaceuticals, are targets of the class action lawsuit by Siskinds, a law firm based in London, Ont.

According to Matthew Baer, the lead council representing Siskinds, they receive several calls a week from people noting injuries resulting from the use of Yasmin or Yaz.

“It just started getting overwhelming, the number of people calling with respect to this particular brand and so we started looking into it and seeing that there were a lot of issues in the U.S. as well,” said Baer.

“We started researching it more and it appears that there’s science showing that the risks of serious injury with Yasmin and Yaz is worse than comparable contraceptives. But the warning that’s given is that the risk is the same,” said Baer.

Many of the reported side effects include strokes, pulmonary embolisms – a blood clot in the lung – various heart problems and, what Baer calls the most overwhelming, is many young women having to get their gall bladders removed.

There have been about 4,000 individual cases against Yasmin and Yaz in the U.S., as well as most provinces in the country filing class action lawsuits against the drugs, according to Baer.

Siskinds has been receiving calls for about a year, in which time they have logged about 300 significant complaints of side effects, but Baer says, “it’s quite possible there could be thousands of people.”

Before the case can go to court, there are several steps it must go through, including a certification hearing, when lawyers will try to convince the judge that it’s a suitable case to be presented as a class action lawsuit rather than individual claims.

This is the stage the lawsuit is currently in, with more people expected to come forward once the case reaches certification.

“We have to be very careful what we choose and if we choose a case to do it’s because we’re very confident that it will be successful at the end of the day,” said Baer.

Due to the overwhelming amount of calls the law firm has received in regards to Yasmin and Yaz, Baer believes the case will be a success.

He is hoping for an outcome with two major focuses.

“We want to try to get compensation for people who are injured from using the drug and two, and just as importantly, we want there to be a proper warning,” said Baer.

“If it is true, as we allege, that there’s a significantly greater increased risk of health problems with people using this drug as compared to other ones, we want there to be a proper warning in place so that people can make informed decisions about what they’re putting in their bodies,” he added.

Although they are nine or 10 months away from seeing any significant progress with the case, Baer is confident that there will be a settlement.

Since these oral contraceptives are widely prescribed in Canada, he expects more people to come forward once the case reaches the settlement stages.

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