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NuvaRing Lawsuits

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The contraceptive ring NuvaRing is linked to serious side effects, some fatal. A number of women suffered from blood clots, resulting in hundreds of lawsuits.

NuvaRing is a once-a-month contraceptive ring that was originally manufactured by Dutch pharmaceutical manufacturer Organon. It received approval from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2001 for use in the United States. After a series of company mergers, Organon was absorbed into Schering-Plough in 2008, a company now known as Merck & Co. Inc. Organon and Merck heavily marketed NuvaRing as safe “month-long protection against pregnancy, so women who use NuvaRing don’t have to think about contraception every day.”

After a number of women suffered serious side effects from the drug — some fatal — lawsuits were filed against the drug’s manufacturers. The complaints accuse Merck, Organon and Schering-Plough of failing to disclose known dangerous side effects and claim that the active ingredient in the drug, etonogestrel, was inadequately tested before NuvaRing’s release. The growing number of lawsuits led to the consolidation of these cases into a multidistrict litigation (MDL).

In early 2014, Merck reportedly agreed to settle more than 1,700 NuvaRing lawsuits for a combined $100 million.

Organon claimed that the ring was as safe and effective as oral contraceptives while being more convenient. The premise behind NuvaRing, which is inserted into the vagina, is that it allows women to receive an effective hormone dose without the need to take a pill every day. At the time of its release, Organon marketed it as the first and only once-a-month vaginal control ring. NuvaRing works by releasing 15 micrograms of ethinyl estradiol and 120 micrograms of etonogestrel, a third-generation progestin hormone used in contraceptives.

Why People are Filing NuvaRing Lawsuits

The lawsuits filed against Merck, Organon and Schering-Plough allege that these companies were reckless and negligent in their marketing and release of NuvaRing. They also allegedly concealed the more dangerous side effects of the drug by concentrating on minor side effects such as headaches, breast tenderness and nausea on the product’s label. The defendant companies are accused of failing to warn consumers about the higher risk of thromboembolic complications associated with NuvaRing, namely blood clots that can travel to the lungs and can be fatal.

Plaintiffs accuse the defendant companies of:
Failure to disclose known safety hazards of the product.
Failure to warn of increased risk from third-generation progestin, etonogestrel, used in NuvaRing.
Failure to adequately test etonogestrel.
Basing safety information on studies of oral contraceptives and not on NuvaRing studies.
Deceptive marketing.
“Negligently, recklessly, carelessly” marketing NuvaRing without adequate instructions or warnings.
Marketing and selling their product when they knew of the dangerous side effects.
Defective manufacturing and design.
Misrepresenting the quality and safety of the product.
Negligence.
Breach of warranty and implied warranty.
Profiting from “conscious wrongdoing.”

Plaintiffs also accuse the defendant companies of willful and intentionally causing harm because they reportedly knew the dangers of NuvaRing and continued to sell and market the product. Because of this, they are demanding punitive damages.

Sherri Howell, a 26-year-old woman from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, began using NuvaRing in February 2011. On March 30, 2011, she went to Mercy Medical Center complaining of chest pain. A CT scan at the hospital revealed that she was suffering from a pulmonary embolism (blood clot in the lung). In her suit against Merck, she claims that the company failed to warn patients about the “serious risks before she used the product and failed to conduct appropriate testing prior to the NuvaRing being prescribed.”

Howell’s case is but one of hundreds of lawsuits filed by women and their families against the manufacturers of NuvaRing. In New Jersey, more than a dozen plaintiffs have filed claims relating to NuvaRing, citing failure to warn, manufacturing defect, fraud and misrepresentation. One of those women, North Carolina resident Melissa L. Davis, states that she suffered a bilateral pulmonary embolism caused by NuvaRing.

Complications of NuvaRing

Some of the most dangerous complications of NuvaRing are venous thromboembolic events (VTEs). These are blood clots in the legs and lungs. The key ingredient  in NuvaRing is a progestin called etonogestrel, a third-generation hormone. Considerable medical evidence suggests that third-generation progestins have an increased risk of VTEs when compared to other types of contraception.

In one of the most comprehensive studies ever conducted on the use of combined hormonal contraceptives, more than 800,000 women were studied from January 2001 to December 2007. The study included women who used contraceptive rings such as NuvaRing for at least six months. The study found an increased risk of VTE that requires further study.

In addition, a Danish study published in the June 2012 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine suggests that women who use contraceptives with the same chemical makeup as NuvaRing increased their risk of heart attacks and strokes by up to three times.

There are other less serious complications also associated with NuvaRing. The University of New Hampshire Health Services department issued a pamphlet that warns women who use the contraceptive about severe abdominal pain, chest pain, headaches, eye problems and leg pain. The department’s pamphlet also notes the increased risk of blood clots, which can lead to heart attack, stroke, pulmonary embolism and deep vein thrombosis in the legs. High-risk groups included women over 45, smokers and patients with high blood pressure.