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FDA updates labeling for birth control patch to reflect risk of blood clots

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WASHINGTON The Food and Drug Administration has approved additional changes to the labeling for the Ortho Evra patch, made by Ortho McNeil Pharmaceuticals, to include the results of a new study that found users of the birth control patch were at higher risk of developing serious blood clots, also known as venous thromboembolism, which can lead to a pulmonary embolism.

The Boston Collaborative Drug Surveillance Program on behalf of Johnson & Johnson conducted the study. The patch was studied in women aged 15-44. These recent findings support an earlier study that also said women in this group were at higher risk for VTE.

Ortho Evra is a prescription patch that releases the hormones ethinyl estradiol and norelgestromin through the skin into the blood stream. Because the hormones are processed by the body differently than hormones from birth control pills, women using the product will be exposed to about 60 percent more estrogen than if they were using typical birth control pills containing 35 micrograms of estrogen. Increased levels of estrogen may increase the risk of side effects, including VTE.

Women should discuss with their health care providers the possible increased risk of VTE with Ortho Evra, which is applied once a week, and balance this risk against the increased chance of pregnancy if women do not take their birth control pill daily.

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