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Is NuvaRing Too Dangerous?

On Thanksgiving Day 2011, 24-year-old Erika Langhart died of a double pulmonary embolism—allegedly a "direct result of the NuvaRing" birth control device, according to her mother Karen, whose story is recounted in Vanity Fair.

The NuvaRing device has recently come under intense scrutiny, as Langhart's death is just one of many tragic stories associated with the drug. In fact, according to the magazine, Merck, which manufactures NuvaRing, is facing about 3,500 lawsuits because of the device, which represented $623 million in sales last year.

What's happening with these women?

According to the magazine, Karen pointed out that the Federal Drug Administration "had determined that there was a 56 percent increased risk of blood clots when [NuvaRing] was compared with birth-control pills using earlier forms of progestin."

And while Erika passed away after being diagnosed with a fatal blood clot, there are other stories of women who have also developed clots after using the device.

The story also focuses on attorney Hunter Shkolnik and his lawsuits against Merck. He asserts that the company used scientific research from a study involving only 16 women to market the product.

When Vanity Fair writer Marie Brenner requested an interview with Merck chairman Ken Frazier or another company representative Merck responded, “'Ken Frazier and our other colleagues are not available to participate in this opportunity.' The e-mail also included Merck’s official statement: 'Blood clots have long been known as a risk associated with combined hormonal contraceptives. The FDA-­approved patient information and physician package labeling for Nuva­Ring include this information….We remain confident in the safety and efficacy profile of Nuva­Ring—which is supported by extensive scientific research—and we will continue to always act in the best interest of patients.'"

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