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Deaths linked to birth control pills in Finland

The world's most commonly prescribed contraceptive pills Yasmin and Yaz have been linked to four deaths and six cerebral embolisms -- or blood clots -- and 25 pulmonary embolisms in Finland.

The safety of Bayer's birth control pills is being questioned. Image: Bayer Healthcare

The birth control pills created a stir after the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation reported that Canadian health authorities suspect the two contraceptives as having caused the deaths of at least 23 women in Canada, mostly through blood clots.  

According to Canadian authorities' data, some 600 women on the pills also suffered adverse health reactions.

The new generation oral contraceptives containing a synthetic hormone called drospirenone, and manufactured by German pharmaceutical giant Bayer, are also sold in Finland.

Record of deaths, blood clots in Finland

Four deaths on record have been linked with Yasmin and Yaz pills in Finland. Two of the deaths occurred in 2006, one in 2008 and one in 2010.

Yle obtained information on the fatalities from Leo Niskanen from the Finnish Medicines Agency FIMEA.

Out of the six users on record who suffered cerebral embolisms, some were left with permanent injuries.

Since 1975, a total of 16 oral contraceptive users have died due to blood clots in Finland.

Yasmin and Yaz are the most widely used birth control pills in Finland, taken by 80,000 women. More than 200,000 women use contraceptive pills in the country.

Niskanen points out that with oral contraceptives, one increased risk factor counteracts other risks.

“The users of birth control pills have a higher risk of blood clots, but this is smaller than the risk of getting pregnant”, Niskanen notes.

Bayer doctor responds

Leena Väisälä, specialist doctor with the pharmaceutical company Bayer that manufactures the pills, says that the risks associated with Yaz and Yasmin have been well known for a while.

“Birth control pills are probably the most thoroughly researched drugs in the world, and the risk of a blood clot is very well known”, Väisälä comments.

According to the doctor, no changes are planned as regards the pills’ retailing.

“We have a careful monitoring system in place for harmful side effects. We are constantly training doctors about these serious side effects. Finnish doctors know this matter very well”, Väisälä affirms.

She also cautions against stopping taking the pill without professional consultation, as this often leads to replacing the pills with less reliable contraception, thus increasing the risk of pregnancy.

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