More than 1,000 lawsuits have been filed against Merck & Co. pharmaceutical company in regards to their contraceptive NuvaRing, which has been linked to venous thromboembolism (VTE, blood clotting).  The suits were filed in a Missouri federal district court citing Merck & Co.’s apparent negligence in warning consumers of product risks and are set to begin this fall, reports Yahoo News.

NuvaRing, a plastic flexible ring released in 2001, is sold as an alternative to traditional oral contraception that, once inserted vaginally, releases hormones into the patient. It is believed that this dispersal of hormones is the cause of blood clotting which is related to the “spikes” or inconsistent delivery in hormone levels.  Last May, a “large-scale” study was released that appeared to absolve NuvaRing of any increased health dangers concerning blood clotting.  However, this study was funded by Merck & Co. and was their only attempt at an “in-depth” study in the contraceptive’s 10 years on the shelf.    

Coincidentally, the British Medical Journal published a study within that same week indicating that NuvaRing increases the risk of blood clotting almost by 90 percent compared to oral contraceptives.  Another study released the following month by the New England Journal of Medicine confirmed that  VTE risks are elevated by NuvaRing, and that  women  are 2.5 – three times more likely to develop blood clotting, which can occur in the heart, lungs or legs.  The U.S. Food and Drug Administration also indicated in increased risk of venous thromboembolism in their own study concluding that “the finding of increased risk of VTE with the . . . vaginal ring is new and raises new concern but needs to be replicated in other studies.”

Prior to marketing NuvaRing to the public, Merck & Co. should have researched this kind of information before ever presenting the drug to the FDA for approval. The FDA, with its limited resources and reliance on accurate information from drug companies, was unable to wholly consider the risks of NuvaRing until 2011, after reports of serious adverse events.  However, that didn’t stop Merck & Co. from pursuing NuvaRing’s release to the public nearly 10 years before.  Now, plaintiffs are taking Merck & Co. to court saying the company, as reported by The Inquisitr, [CP1] [CP2] “had severely downplayed the product risks regarding life-threatening blood clots.”

This situation isn’t the first time that Merck & Co. has come under fire for neglecting to properly inform its consumers.  Just this past February, Merck & Co. was ordered to pay out $285,000 after a federal jury found Merck & Co.’s failure to warn the plaintiff’s doctors of risks associated with osteoporosis medication Fosamax, according to a Reuters report.  Tim O’Brien, an attorney with Levin, Papantonio, Thomas, Mitchell, Rafferty & Proctor, P.A., was the attorney for the New York plaintiff that filed the suit.

Personal injury lawyers all over the country are now preparing to take the pharmaceutical giant to task. Chris Paulos, also with Levin, Papantonio, is one of the attorneys who focuses special attention on the NuvaRing suits. “Keeping the public in the dark by concealing accurate and important safety information from doctors and patients has, sadly, become a routine business practice of the pharmaceutical industry,” opines Mr. Paulos.

Joshua de Leon is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire.