Israeli Attorney Takes on Bayer Over Yasmin Birth Control Pill's Risks

Attorney Yaakov Davidovich applies for class action suit on behalf of woman who says she suffered pulmonary embolism after taking contraceptive.

Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati
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Beyer headquarters in Leverkusen, Germany.
Beyer headquarters in Leverkusen, Germany.Credit: Wikimedia Commons
Ido Efrati
Ido Efrati

An Israeli attorney on Thursday filed an application to launch a class action suit against German drug company Bayer for failing to update the public about the risks associated with one of its products in a timely fashion.

Bayer updated the user information leaflet of its popular birth control pill Yasmin in January 2010, adding the risk of clotting and blood vessel blockage to the list of rare side effects. According to the petition for a class action suit filed at the Central District Court against Bayer Israel and Perrigo Israel (local distributor of Yasmin at the time), the update was too little and too late.

Attorney Yaakov Davidovich, who filed the petition on behalf a woman who took the pill, claimed that the pharmaceutical company did not make public the risks entailed by the pill - despite the real risks involved - and made do with merely updating the pamphlet. If the application is approved, a suit for NIS 204 million in damages will be filed.

The petition also claims that the pamphlet was updated years after evidence of the significant clotting risk had accumulated. “The respondents did not see fit to make public and to inform users of the Yasmin pill that it comes with a risk of excessive blood clotting, which is liable to cause complications from lung embolisms to death, well beyond the usual relatively trivial risks of other pills,” Davidovich said at a press conference on Thursday.

“We are doing today what the drug company should have done immediately upon learning of the side effect of blood clotting, and that is we are informing the public about the risks in an open and wide-ranging way by means of the media,” he said.

According to Davidovich, the intention of updating the pamphlet was to do the necessary minimum without informing the women who take the pill. “A person who uses a medication on a regular basis does not read the usage pamphlet every time he uses it,” the attorney said.

Davidovich’s client, Ruth Teitler, 29, suffered a dangerous pulmonary embolism in 2007, ostensibly as a result of taking the pill. “A year after I started taking the pill, I began to feel pain in my chest and a few days later I felt I could not breathe,” she told Haaretz. “When I got to the hospital I was in danger of dying.” X-rays showed her lungs were full of blood clots, she said.

An estimated 700,000 women in Israel use birth control pills. Of them, 100,000 take Yasmin, which has been available in Israel since 2001.

The U.S. Federal Drug Administration published a warning regarding Yasmin in 2011, noting that the specific form of synthetic progesterone used in the pill has been tied to blood clots and pulmonary embolisms.

Another request for a class action against Bayer over Yasmin was filed in 2013 in the Tel Aviv District Court.

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