Woman Wins $14 Million in Yasmin Birth Control Lawsuit
A 43-year-old Chicago woman received vindication in April when a jury awarded her $14 million in damages after she suffered a stroke six years earlier, at the age of 37, within two weeks of taking the birth control pill Yasmin. (or “Yaz”).
The Yasmin birth control lawsuit is the latest in a string of complaints incriminating the popular drug that, thanks to allegations that it causes serious, often fatal blood clotting and other side effects, is now somewhat notorious.
Yasmin birth control lawsuit
Mariola Zapalski was prescribed Yasmin in 2007 for irregular bleeding. Just 13 days later, a stroke rendered Zapalski wheelchair bound and unable to communicate well, her whole left side paralyzed.
On the heels of the verdict, Zapalski’s husband, Rafal Zapalski, who had to quit his job in order to care for his wife and has been caring for her 24/7 since, said, “Nobody should have to go through what we did.”
Attorneys for the couple explained that Yasmin was inappropriate to prescribe to Zapalski in light of her medical history—and that alternatively a progesterone-only pill would have carried little to no risk by contrast. (Yasmin and Yaz are known to increase the dangers of blood clotting.)
Blood clot risks and FDA warning
The Yasmin lawsuit is the latest implicating the popular birth control pill for causing strokes and serious, potentially fatal blood clots, among them pulmonary embolism (clotting in the lungs), deep vein thrombosis (clotting in the legs), cerebral embolism (a clot that travels to the brain causing a stroke), retinal thrombosis (clotting in the eye, causing blindness) and myocardial infarction (or heart attack).
In 2011 the federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) chose to update its warning label on Yaz based on studies showing the newer oral contraceptive posed higher risks for blood clotting—sometimes threefold greater— than older contraceptives.
Since its approval by the FDA in 2006, Yaz was initially marketed to younger women with the catchy tagline “beyond birth control.” Ads touted the drug’s supposed benefits — like clearing acne and preventing premenstrual symptoms — over older oral contraceptives. That marketing was so successful that within two years, Yaz had become the most popular birth control pill in the U.S., reaching sales of $781 million in 2009, according to AP reports. But recent safety concerns over blood clots have dramatically cut prescriptions. (Bayer was also required to scale back claims about the drug’s effects on PMS and acne.)
Woman suffers stroke after taking Yasmin
Before her Yasmin-related stroke, Zapalski used to take walks with her husband and enjoyed decorating their Elmwood Park, Chicago home.
The Zapalskis originally came to the U.S. from Poland “for a better life,” according to Rafal Zapalski, and had sought out the doctor who prescribed them Yasmin because he (the doctor) was also Polish. Dr. Zbigniew Aniol, the defendant in the case, had prescribed Yasmin to Zapalski despite the risk factors: Zapalski was over age 35 and had hypertension.
“We were so happy together. Now she cries all the time because she needs care all the time,” he said. “I cry for her, too.”
- ABC News, Suburban woman sins $14M verdict in Yasmin Case http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=news/local/chicago_news&id=9509150
- Chicago Tribune, Couple Awarded $14 Million in Birth Control Suit http://articles.chicagotribune.com/2014-04-20/news/ct-birth-control-lawsuit-met-20140420_1_pills-stroke-yasmin
- TIME, FDA Calls for Clearer Risk Labeling For Yaz http://healthland.time.com/2011/12/09/fda-calls-for-clearer-risk-labeling-for-yaz/