NuvaRing Blood Clot Lawsuits Ruling

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Resource4thePeople cites judge’s ruling on secret files.

Resource4thePeople reports that a federal judge overseeing a large group of NuvaRing blood-clotting lawsuits has issued a ruling against the manufacturer of the controversial birth control device by rejecting the company’s request to keep relevant internal documents secret.

The ruling by Judge Rodney Sippel blocks efforts by lawyers for pharmaceutical giant Merck to allow the documents to remain sealed, or kept from public view.

Sippel is presiding over hundreds of federal NuvaRing lawsuits filed by women who claim to have suffered blood clots, deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolisms as a result of their use of the contraceptive. The cases are consolidated in the Eastern District of Missouri (4:08MD1964 RWS), where he issued his order in Document #1390 on Oct. 25, 2012.

The allegations contained in these lawsuits include claims that the plaintiffs are seeking juries to decide over whether Merck adequately tested the NuvaRing device before putting it into the marketplace.

A review of the court docket in this multi-district litigation shows that the judge has not issued any order barring additional NuvaRing lawsuits being filed because the legal time limits have not expired for many women who may have suffered these side effects.

Resource4thePeople provides referrals to NuvaRing lawyers who are offering free consultations for women who have suffered these side effects and are seeking experienced, aggressive NuvaRing attorneys.

As with most legal cases, there may be legal deadlines for filing such a lawsuit so it is recommended that anyone affected act as soon as possible to preserve all legal options.

As a judge selected by the federal court system to oversee the NuvaRing federal cases Judge Sippel is responsible for overseeing pre-trial evidence gathering, legal filings and the possibility of settlements in the cases.

Among the major allegations common to the NuvaRing lawsuits before Judge Sippel, according to these court filings, is that the flexible, once-a-month NuvaRing plastic ring contains female hormones that block conception but also put women at significantly higher risk of suffering blood clots.

These clots, according to the claims made in court filings, have led to heart attacks, strokes, deep vein thrombosis, pulmonary embolisms and other life-threatening problems for which these women are seeking compensation for health problems, loss of wages, medical costs, pain and suffering and other expenses.

There is another multi-district litigation involving NuvaRing side effects in which nearly 200 cases are currently consolidated before a New Jersey state court judge (BER-L-3081-09) involving the same allegations, according to the court filings.

Both judges are now in the process of selecting what are known as bellwether trials in which both the plaintiffs and Merck will agree on certain cases to be tried next year in which lawyers for both sides will be allowed to test the strengths of their cases.

The NuvaRing was developed and marketed by Merck as what the company described as a safe and convenient alternative to birth control pills.* The device is placed by women in their vaginas on a monthly basis and releases a combination of ethinyl estradiol and etonogestrel to prevent conception.

However, in 2011, the Food and Drug Administration released a study** in which researchers concluded that the NuvaRing might increase the risk of blood clots by 56% in women who chose it over other, older and safer birth control pills.

Merck now acknowledges these dangers on its NuvaRing web site*** on which it posted the following conclusion:

  •     The use of combination oral contraceptives is associated with increased risks of several serious side effects, including blood clots, stroke, or heart attack. NuvaRing is not for women with a history of these conditions. The risk of getting blood clots may be greater with the type of progestin in NuvaRing than with some other progestins in certain low-dose birth control pills. It is unknown if the risk of blood clots is different with NuvaRing use than with the use of certain birth control pills.

On the same web site, Merck also discusses the dangers of blood clots, strokes and heart attacks:

                                             Blood clots
The hormones in NuvaRing may cause changes in your blood clotting system which may allow your blood to clot more easily. If blood clots form in your legs, they can travel to the lungs and cause a sudden blockage of a vessel carrying blood to the lungs.

Rarely, clots occur in the blood vessels of the eye and may cause blindness, double vision, or other vision problems. The risk of getting blood clots may be greater with the type of progestin in NuvaRing than with some other progestins in certain low-dose birth control pills.

                                     Strokes and heart attacks

Hormonal contraceptives may increase your risk of strokes (blockage of blood flow to the brain) or heart attacks (blockage of blood flow to the heart). Any of these conditions can cause death or serious disability.

Finally, on the same web site Merck warns NuvaRing users of dangerous symptoms:

                                     Possible signs of a serious problem

Call your doctor right away if you get any of the symptoms listed below. They may be signs of a serious problem:

  •     Sharp chest pain, coughing blood, or sudden shortness of breath (possible clot in the lung)
  •     Pain in the calf (back of lower leg; possible clot in the leg)
  •     Crushing chest pain or heaviness in the chest (possible heart attack)
  •     Sudden severe headache or vomiting, dizziness or fainting, problems with vision or speech, weakness, or numbness in an arm or leg (possible stroke)
  •     Sudden partial or complete loss of vision (possible clot in the eye)
  •     Yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes (jaundice), especially with fever, tiredness, loss of appetite, dark-colored urine, or light-colored bowel movements (possible liver problems)
  •     Severe pain, swelling, or tenderness in the abdomen (gallbladder or liver problems)
  •     Sudden fever (usually 102°F or more), vomiting, diarrhea, dizziness, fainting, or a sunburn-like rash on the face or body (very rarely, toxic shock syndrome)
  •     Breast lumps (possible breast cancer or benign breast disease)
  •     Irregular vaginal bleeding or spotting that happens in more than 1 menstrual cycle or lasts for more than a few days
  •     Urgent, frequent, burning and/or painful urination, and cannot locate the ring in the vagina (rarely, accidental placement of NuvaRing into the urinary bladder)
  •     Swelling (edema) of your fingers or ankles
  •     Difficulty in sleeping, weakness, lack of energy, fatigue, or a change in mood (possible severe depression)

There are also NuvaRing danger signs raised by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' MedlinePlus web site****:

“Etonogestrel and ethinyl estradiol vaginal ring may increase the chance that you will develop liver tumors. These tumors are not a form of cancer, but they can break and cause serious bleeding inside the body. The contraceptive ring may also increase the chance that you will develop breast or liver cancer, or have a heart attack, a stroke, or a serious blood clot.”

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W.J. Callahan
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