The program at 24-year-old Erika Langhart's memorial service read: "Cause of Passing: Massive, Double Pulmonary Embolism — a direct result of the NuvaRing." It was an unusual statement on a funeral program, but one that captured the family's anguish, and need to alert others about the dangers of the birth control device. Erika's mother, Karen Langhart recently told Vanity Fair magazine, "I want to warn every mother and every daughter: do not use the product that killed my child." Why is the potentially lethal NuvaRing still on the market? This was the question Vanity Fair asked in an online article published in December that exposed the dangers of Merck's blockbuster contraceptive. The article brought national media attention to an issue that has already been a hot topic for thousands of women who suffered blood clots – venous thromboembolisms (VTEs) – after using the birth control ring containing estrogen and desonogestrel. Desonogestrel is a third-generation hormone shown in studies to increase the risk of developing blood clots compared to older first- and second-generation hormones. A pulmonary embolism is a blood clot in the lungs, and it's the type of clot that took Erika Langhart's life. NuvaRing, a plastic ring filled with birth control hormones, was marketed to women as a more convenient alternative to the pill. Unlike a daily birth control pill, NuvaRing is inserted into the vagina and is changed every three weeks. The product has raked in big profits for Merck & Co., and Bloomberg estimates the product will generate annual sales of more than $664 million. But Merck also faces a growing number of lawsuits filed by women and their families who say the birth control ring caused them to suffer blood clots — some fatal. Over 1,500 federal lawsuits are pending in federal court, and about 2,000 more were filed in state courts. The complaints show the drug's manufacturer failed to warn the public about the dangers of blood clots. Diane Agresta filed a lawsuit against Merck after her daughter, Lyndsey, suffered a blood clot that led to a massive stroke. After six months of living in a hospital and several surgeries to try and save her, Lyndsey died when nothing else could be done to reverse the brain damage. She was 27 years old.
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