After years of taking birth control pills, Roma Cruz was more than happy to switch to the popular patch, joining more than four million others.
“I only have to put it on once a week, it’s easy for me to remember,” she says.
But now patch users are being warned by the Food and Drug Administration; they’re being exposed to about 60 percent more of the hormone estrogen than they would be if they were on the pill. That extra estrogen increases the risk of developing blood clots and other serious side effects.
“Both the birth control pill and the patch start out with about the same amount of estrogen, but the pill looses about half of its estrogen when it’s digested, whereas the patch pumps a steady dose of the hormone into the bloodstream all day long.
Dr. Holly Thacker at Cleveland Clinic says, “It might be that the patch simply needs to be reformulated to a lower level of estrogen.”
In a recent survey, The Associated Press found 17 relatively healthy women died from blood clots believed to be related to the patch. Manufacturer Ortho McNeil called the report "unscientific," but even before it was approved, the FDA noticed non-fatal blood clots from the patch were three times higher than that of the pill.
Now facing several lawsuits, Ortho McNeil has issued this statement: "The warning speaks for itself. The company has been cooperating with the FDA."
Many users like Roma Cruz are not fazed.
“I’ve been on it for four years, and I haven t had any side effects with it,” she says.
As long as it’s on the market, it appears the convenience outweighs the risks for many. If you re taking the patch and are concerned about it, talk to your doctor.