The European Commission does not plan to limit the use of third and fourth-generation birth control pills, as urged by French Health Minister Marisol Touraine as well as a number of members of the European Parliament. "Doctors are familiar with the risks presented by this type of pill, which are indicated on the package leaflet. The latest evaluation by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), in 2011, concluded that there is no new evidence to warrant any change in their authorisations," said the spokesman for Commissioner Tonio Borg (health and consumer policy), on 11 January.
The debate was retriggered in France in mid-December 2012 when a young woman lodged a complaint against the German pharmaceuticals giant Bayer, claiming that use of the third-generation pills caused her to suffer a stroke. According to French media, another 30-odd complaints are expected to be lodged soon and Bayer is already having to deal with thousands of similar cases in the United States.
There are currently two sorts of pills: the progestogen-only pill, which contains only a synthetic derivative of progesterone, and the combined pill, containing a combination of progestogens and a synthetic derivative of another hormone, oestrogen. Combined pills have changed the progestogen ingredient several times and recently changed the oestrogen component. These changes, which mark the shift from one generation to another of the product, have also led to new risks. According to a study published by the British Medical Journal, the risk of venous thrombosis is twice as high with the third and fourth-generation pill than it was with the second generation. This is confirmed by the EMA in a press release, published on 11 January: "It is well established that combined contraceptives carry a very rare risk of blood clots, and that the risk differs between types of combined contraceptives".
EU URGED TO ACT
At an 11 January press conference, Touraine...