GPs warn a million women at risk of blood clots from popular birth control pills

Third-generation contraceptive pills double women's chances of developing fatal blood clots

A million women who take Britain’s most popular contraceptive pills are being warned that they risk potentially life-threatening blood clots.

GPs nationwide have been ordered to warn patients that they are almost twice as likely to develop blood clots if they take some of the most widely used birth-control tablets, including Yasmin, Femodene and Marvelon, compared with older products.

According to the Mail on Sunday, scientists found that so-called third-generation contraceptives caused 14 deaths a year in France.

Britain's drug watchdog, the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has written to the country’s 60,000 GPs, ordering them to pay "careful consideration" to individuals' risk factors before prescribing them the combined hormonal contraceptives.

A history of deep vein thrombosis (DVT) or very high blood pressure are among the conditions that would prevent a doctor recommending the drugs.

The move follows a report by the European Medicines Agency, which found that the synthetic hormones used in these birth-control pills present a higher risk of causing blood clots than previously thought. The report also found that the packaging of the pills should be updated to ensure that women are made aware of these risks.

The MHRA wrote a letter to doctors on January 22, which stated that "there is no need for anyone who has been using a combined hormonal contraceptive without any problems to stop taking it on the basis of this review".

It added: "Combined hormonal contraceptives are highly effective in preventing unwanted pregnancy. They offer substantial benefits and these far outweigh the small risk of serious side effects."

These newer pills are prescribed about two million times a year. They are popular because they are less likely than their predecessors to cause side-effects such as weight gain, headaches, breast tenderness and hair growth.

Third generation pills were launched in the 1980s and official concerns were first raised about increased DVT risks in 1995.

The annual risk of a woman of childbearing age having a serious blood clot is 1 in 5,000 if she is not on a combined contraceptive pill, the MHRA letter said.

The risk increases to about 1 in 1,700 a year if she is taking one of the older forms of combined pill, and taking third generation pills means the risk is as high as 1 in 800.

Dr Sarah Branch, deputy director of the MHRA's vigilance and risk management of medicines division, said: "Women should continue to take their contraceptive pill. These are very safe, highly effective medicines for preventing unintended pregnancy and the benefits associated with their use far outweigh the risk of blood clots in veins or arteries.

"No important new evidence has emerged - this review simply confirms what we already know, that the risk of blood clots with all combined hormonal contraceptives is small.

"If women have questions, they should discuss them with their GP or contraceptive provider at their next routine appointment but should keep taking their contraceptive until they have done so."

 

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Sport
England's women celebrate after their 3rd place play-off win against Germany
Women's World CupFara Williams converts penalty to secure victory and bronze medals
Arts and Entertainment
Ricardo by Edward Sutcliffe, 2014
artPortraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb go on display
News
newsHillary Clinton comments on viral Humans of New York photo of gay teenager
Arts and Entertainment
The gang rape scene in the Royal Opera’s production of Gioachino Rossini’s Guillaume Tell has caused huge controversy
music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'