FDA warns of birth control dangers

In the face of reports questioning the safety of the Ortho Evra birth-control patch, university health officials have cautioned students against the contraceptive.

A recent report published by the Associated Press analyzed adverse effects of the patch, uncovering evidence of more blood clots among Ortho Evra users than those who rely on oral contraceptives.

The Food and Drug Administration issued a follow-up warning to patients about blood clots, which scientists link to the method through which hormones in the patch enter the bloodstream.

Ortho-McNeil, the producer of the patch, also released a statement warning that users of the patch may be exposed to 60 percent more estrogen than those using typical birth-control pills.

Because the reports have not been validated by independent scientific research, UCSD Student Health will continue to distribute the patch to qualified candidates, according to Student Health Advocate Co-ordinator Erin Touslee.

“The patch and other hormonal methods remain safe and are among the most effective ways to prevent unintended pregnancy,” she stated in an e-mail. “The same precautions are used for the patch as for any other hormonal birth-control method. Women should be honest with their health-care provider about their health risks, including smoking, so that their personal risks can be appropriately evaluated.”

Interestingly, an examination of contraceptives by several doctors published in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 2001 found that the patch poses the same blood-clot risks as birth-control pills.

The patch has become a more popular contraceptive because it requires only one application a week, as opposed to the birth-control pill, which needs to be ingested daily for an extended period of time, Touslee said. In addition, the patch is very dependable, she said.

“The patch is a very reliable method of birth control and is thought to be just as — if not more effective — than the birth-control pill,” Touslee said. “It is estimated that fewer than one out of 100 women who use the patch will become pregnant.”

Still, because of the recent concerns, some doctors are hesitant to prescribe one patch to any patient, even if they do not exhibit the risk factors.

“I am currently not recommending the patch until more information about this is available,” said Kathryn Macaulay, a doctor with the UCSD department of reproductive medicine. “I am unaware of any UCSD students having problems with the patch. Patients are not asking for the patch any less frequently, in my practice, since this information became available.”