Yaz (drospirenone / ethinyl estradiol) is a birth control pill that is sold by the drug company Bayer. It was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in 2006, and its approval made it the second drospirenone-containing birth control pill (the first was Yasmin, sold in 2001). Bayer ran a $270 million ad campaign to launch Yaz, and within a couple years, Yaz and Yasmin were the most popular birth control pills in the U.S.
But the success of Yaz was to be short-lived. In 2009, studies were published linking drospirenone, an ingredient in Yaz, to a higher risk of blood clots. The FDA began receiving reports of Yaz heart attacks, even among women who had no medical history of heart attacks, blood clots, or other risk factors.
The FDA was also concerned about the advertisements for the drugs, and sent Bayer three warning letters (in 2003, 2008, and 2009) citing the drug company for producing ads that were “misleading” and “failed to communicate any risk information.”
Finally, in April of 2012, the FDA announced that they would be updating the drug labels on all drospirenone-containing birth control pills to warn women about the increased risk of blood clots, which could cause deadly heart attacks and other side effects.
Yaz and Heart Attacks
Several massive studies have linked drospirenone, an ingredient in Yaz, to as much as a three-fold increased risk of developing blood clots. In some women, drospirenone causes levels of potassium to increase too much in the bloodstream, which increases the likelihood of developing Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT). DVT is a condition in which blood clots form deep inside the body, usually in the lower legs. The blood clots can severely damage blood vessels where they form. However, the biggest risk with DVT is that the blood clot will break loose, travel through the bloodstream, and get trapped inside a major internal organ.
If a blood clot gets trapped inside the heart, this is called a heart attack. Normally, the heart muscle receives oxygen-rich blood via three coronary arteries. When a blood clot clogs one of these coronary arteries, the heart muscle is deprived of oxygenated blood. The heart tissue begins to die within minutes.
Heart failure is a potential complication of a heart attack. This occurs when the heart muscle is too damaged to continue pumping blood to the body. Heart failure can be sudden or prolonged. When it is prolonged, the heart is only able to supply a decreased amount of blood to the body. A person may be suffer shortness of breath, fatigue, and severe swelling of the limbs. Some people can recover from a heart attack within a few days or weeks. For others, heart failure due to a Yaz heart attack is fatal.
Symptoms of a Yaz Heart Attack
Many people delay seeking treatment for a heart attack because the early symptoms can be relatively benign, similar to indigestion, and they want to “tough it out.” However, this decision can be fatal. Early treatment is crucial for survival.
Not all people experience the same symptoms of a heart attack. A heart attack may have no early symptoms, or it may be dramatic, painful, and debilitating. Symptoms may appear suddenly, or they may develop gradually over time. Mild, persistent chest pain (angina) may be the first symptom of an impending heart attack.
Symptoms of a Yaz heart attack may include:
- Pressure, squeezing feeling, or feeling of fullness in the chest, lasts more than a few minutes
- Chest pain — this pain may radiate to the shoulder, arm, back, or other parts of the body
- Chest pain that grows worse
- Pain in the upper abdomen
- Shortness of breath
- Anxiety, nervousness, feeling like something is very wrong
- Fainting, lightheadedness, dizziness
- Nausea, vomiting