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Yaz and Gallbladder Disease

Lawsuits against Bayer alleging Yaz gallbladder disease have been all over the news the last couple of months. Here is everything you need to know – from the symptoms of gallbladder problems to details on the latest Yaz lawsuits filed by injured women,

What is gallbladder disease?

The gallbladder is a pear-shaped organ beneath the liver. Inside the gallbladder is a reservoir of bile, a fluid made by the liver that helps the body digest fat. Normally, the bile flows from the liver into the gallbladder storage system, and moves into the small intestine when triggered by hormones as you eat. Once the fat is broken down, the bile is absorbed and carried back to the liver for reuse.

The term “gallbladder disease” actually encompasses several types of gallbladder problems.

  • Gallstones are crystal formations from bile components that form hardened stones. In severe cases, they may migrate and cause a bowel obstruction or cause pain.
  • Acute cholecystitis is an inflammation of the gallbladder caused by the presence of gallstones. In addition to a litany of unpleasant symptoms ranging from vomiting and nausea, to urgent diarrhea and severe abdominal pain, rare cases of ruptured gallbladders have been reported.

Over time, these stones can lead to chronic inflammation and/or gallstone formation, which is known as gallbladder disease. If the flow of bile is blocked or there is too much cholesterol to process, then a gallstone deposit forms.

What are the symptoms of gallbladder problems?

Possible signs and symptoms of gallbladder problems include:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Mild to moderate discomfort an hour after eating
  • Sharp abdominal pain after eating a fatty meal
  • Pain in the back between the shoulder blades and underneath the right arm

Usually the symptoms come in attacks that occur within 30 minutes of eating and persist for hours. Severe attacks include a fever, chills, sweating, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), and severe, persistent pain.

What are the treatment options?

For mild cases, a person suffering from symptoms of gallbladder problems may try drinking only clear liquids (to give the gallbladder a rest; avoiding fatty, greasy foods, and taking acetaminophen (Tylenol) for pain.

However, more serious cases may involve a procedure called “extracorporeal shockwave lithotripsy,” which uses shock waves to break up larger gallstones into small pieces. Medication can be prescribed that will dissolve the gallstones over a period of months or years.

Unfortunately, there is no real cure for gallbladder disease. Often, the only way to effectively treat Yaz gallbladder disease is to remove the organ altogether. Fortunately, people can live without the gallbladder. Instead of a rush of bile released from the gallbladder while eating a fatty meal, a continuous drip of bile will secrete from the liver directly into the small intestines. Patients are advised to go on a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet even after surgery to prevent complications.

Risk factors for gallbladder disease

Researchers really aren’t sure why some people develop gallstones, while others do not. However, certain risk factors for gallbladder disease have been identified. These risk factors include:

  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Age (40+)
  • Gender (female)
  • Ethnicity (Western Caucasian, Hispanic, Native American)
  • Multiple pregnancies
  • Rapid weight loss
  • Estrogen or progesterone replacement therapy
  • Taking Yaz, Yasmin, or Ocella birth control

On the other hand, people who are physically active and those who take statin drugs to treat high cholesterol are less likely to suffer symptoms of gallbladder problems. Also, people who eat diets low in fat and high in vitamin C, with a moderate amount of coffee consumption are at a lower risk.

Do Yaz and Yasmin cause gallbladder problems?

Gallbladder disease is one of the side effects of Yasmin and Yaz birth control pills manufactured by Bayer Pharmaceuticals. According to eHealthMe’s assessment of FDA reports, 4,658 people reported suffering Yaz gallbladder disease out of the 26,205 users who suffered complications from the drug. In addition to gallbladder disease, there are thousands of lawsuits alleging a link between Yaz and blood clots. Bayer’s 2012 annual review stated that there were 13,000 Yaz gallbladder disease claimants who had not come forward to settle.

Oral contraceptive Yaz was pitched as “new kind of birth control” when the pills hit the market back in 2006. Bayer released TV ads saying that Yaz would relieve PMS symptoms and help treat acne. Later, the FDA forced Bayer to withdraw these misleading ads and disclose more risk factors in their marketing materials.

Yaz, Yasmin and Ocella all contain a similar synthetic estrogen to other pills, but the addition of a new progestin called drospirenone was something revolutionary to contraceptives. It’s believed that this synthetic hormone is the culprit behind the health issues women are reporting.

Studies warn about Yaz gallbladder disease

A study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ) in April 2011 found that women taking birth controls containing drospirenone had a 20 percent greater risk of developing gallbladder problems. Furthermore, women taking Yaz, Yasmin or Ocella for more than two years were 30 percent more likely to have their gallbladders removed. They reported that drospirenone represented a “small, statistically significant increase in the risk of gallbladder disease.”

Bayer settles claims involving gallbladder injuries

Thousands of lawsuits against Bayer Pharmaceuticals allege that Yaz and Yasmin are dangerous and defectively manufactured, resulting in serious injuries including gallbladder disease and blood-clot related complications.

The following are just a few examples of claims involving gallbladder problems:

  • In July 2012, Richard and Carol Browne alleged that Bayer Corporation is liable for destroying their child’s gallbladder and causing “long-lasting complications.”
  • In August 2012, Ed and Elaine Cavazos of Texas filed on behalf of their daughter who suffered gallbladder injury.
  • In October 2012, North Carolina Plaintiff Claudia Brown sought a Yaz lawsuit settlement after being forced to undergo emergency gallbladder surgery.

In late March of 2013, Bayer offered a settlement of $2,000 paid to each plaintiff who can establish a connection between the use of Yaz/Yasmin and their gallbladder problems. Individuals who have undergone gallbladder surgery are entitled to a $3,000 settlement.

Despite settling these claims, Bayer issued a statement that it does not believe Yaz and Yasmin birth control pills increase the risk of gallbladder disease compared to other oral contraceptives. A spokeswoman said that the settlement is likely “less than the legal costs of defending against the suits.” The total settlement for all Yaz gallbladder injuries is capped at $24 million, thus the estimated amounts per plaintiff may be reduced depending on the number of women who file lawsuits.

Yaz gallbladder problems and legal recourse

In order to prove a case, plaintiffs must demonstrate general and specific causation. For instance, they must prove that their Yaz gallbladder disease or injury was not caused by general risk factors like age, weight, alcohol abuse, or genetic disorder. They must also prove that Ocella, Yasmin or Yaz was the culprit behind the gallstone formation.

Women with symptoms of gallbladder problems after taking the oral contraceptives are encouraged to hire a product liability attorney with experience in Yaz litigation against pharmaceutical giants like Bayer Healthcare.