Contraceptive patch may cause more harm than good

Women juggling busy schedules often find the contraceptive patch to be an easier alternative to birth control pills, since it only has to be changed weekly rather than taken daily.

However, the Ortho Evra patch has recently come under fire due to a lawsuit against Johnson & Johnson, which claims that increased estrogen production caused a heart attack in a 17-year-old.

If you are a female student who uses the patch or any type of birth control, it is important to understand the potential risks that come with something that is designed to make your life a little bit easier.

The patch delivers about 60 percent more estrogen to the body than a birth control pill, which typically contains 35 micrograms of estrogen. The higher levels of estrogen put some women at risk for blood clots, heart attacks and strokes. Smoking will increase the risk of these side effects.

How do you determine if you are more likely to be at risk? Though there is no concrete answer, looking at your family history is a big help. If there have been cases of diabetes or cancer in your family, you may be more prone to these risks, even if you don’t have these illnesses yourself.

The risks are the same for women taking birth control pills, since they share the same active chemical, ethinyl estradiol.

The lawsuit is trying to determine whether the increased amount of estrogen released into the body caused the girl’s death.

If proven so, it might cause many women to reconsider birth control methods, since Ortho Evra is the only patch that has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

The patch is not perfect to begin with. Some women may have allergic reactions to the adhesive tape. It is also possible for the adhesive tape to detach, and even if the patch is only off for a day, a pregnancy can result in that short period of time. And though the FDA has approved the patch, it recommends a lower dosage of estrogen.

So what should you do if the patch works for your lifestyle and the pill doesn’t? Consider a vaginal ring.

NuvaRing releases the estrogen directly through the vaginal wall. And once inserted, the vaginal ring does its job for three straight weeks, so, much like the patch, you can put it to work and forget about it. It is also about 99 percent effective.

If you still decide to use the patch, it is important to follow the current Ortho Evra lawsuit. Much like the Vioxx case, if the plaintiff presents a strong enough case, it may mean a recall of the patch.

And even if the patch isn’t recalled, the lawsuit itself has raised enough questions that may make you want to ask some much harder questions of your gynecologist or your pharmacist.

Birth control may be meant to make your life easier, but with any drug, no matter how much it may appear to help, it is crucial to understand how the drug works and all of its potential side effects

Information from –, and