Birth control patch has health risks

Ortho Evra, the first Food and Drug Administration approved birth control patch, has been linked to blood clot risks. The results of an FDA study given by the FDA showed that users of the Ortho Evra patch were two times more likely than others to develop blood clots in their legs and lungs.

Ortho Evra, commonly know as “the patch,” was introduced by Johnson & Johnson in 2002.The patch is a thin, beige patch worn on the skin weekly for three consecutive weeks. During the fourth week the patch is not worn, so that a woman’s menstrual cycle can take place.

Like the pill, Ortho Evra contains two hormones-estrogen and progestin. When a woman applies the patch to her body, these hormones are released from the patch at continuous levels each day.

As these hormones are passed from the skin into the bloodstream, they work just like the pill to prevent pregnancy, according to the Johnson & Johnson Web site. The increased estrogen may raise the risk of blood clots.

However, serious effects have been reported since the patch’s approval over three years ago. Nearly a dozen women died in 2004 alone from blood clots which were believed to be caused by the birth control patch.

Dozens of other women survived strokes and other clot-related problems.

“The blood clots are the root of thromboembolisms, which means the female’s veins are breaking down,” explains LaQuinta Hyppolite, a pharmacist at Royalty Pharmacy in Miami. “The embolisms can cause excessive bleeding and increase the chances of a heart attack.”

The FDA is continuing to monitor the safety of the Ortho Evra patch and compare the effects to women using birth control pills.

“The safest birth control method, besides abstinence, is the male and female condom,” Hyppolite said. “When a woman uses oral or injection contraceptives, she is still introducing foreign hormones into her body.”

Severe and potentially fatal side effects including blood clots, pulmonary embolism, heart attacks and strokes, have been reported by women who are using or have used the Ortho Evra birth control patch. For more information about the severe side effects, go to

“Pulmonary emboolisms is a very detrimental complication,” explains Hyppolite. “It effects your breathing by blocking off the arteries in your lungs so your body won’t get the proper oxygen it needs.”

The FDA has approved updated labeling warning that the Ortho Evra contraceptive patch exposes women to higher levels of estrogen than most birth control pills.

The Ortho Evra Web site informs women who are excessive smokers to discard using the birth control patch because their side effect risks are higher. Smoker’s side effects include hypertension, bad cholesterol level and increased mortality rate.

“A few of my friends use the patch,” said Kamaja Blair, an 18-year-old freshman pharmacy student from Winter Park. “No one has ever had any complaints about it.”

In a recent survey given by Ortho-McNeil, nine out of 10 women preferred the patch as opposed to other birth control methods.

As a customer service tactic, Ortho Women’s Health has a program that offers one free month of their newest birth control pill to women who are not satisfied with the Ortho Evra patch.

The FDA advises women to talk to their doctor about whether the patch is the right birth control method for them.

For more information about the Ortho Evra patch, visit or

Contact Ariell Martin at