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Bayer Pushes Its Luck With Birth Control Pill That Promotes Healthy Pregnancy

Unphased by more than 2,000 lawsuits alleging its contraceptive Yaz causes lethal blood clots, Bayer (BAYRY) has launched a new version of the pill -- Beyaz -- which includes a Vitamin B/folic acid supplement. The purpose of the folate supplement is to reduce the risk of a neural tube defects such as spina bifida and anencephaly in babies in case you do get pregnant despite using the pill. It's literally a pill for when the pill doesn't work.

There isn't much need for a new pill. There are already dozens of cheap, safe generics on the market. Yaz itself recently lost its market exclusivity when its patent expired and Teva began marketing a cheap copy. Folic acid isn't in short supply either -- you can get it from many cereals, fruits and leafy vegetables. (It's just that Americans literally don't eat vegetables.)

So Bayer is pushing its luck with Yaz. (It always has done. Last year the feds forced Bayer to run $20 million of corrective advertising after it was found to have aired misleading ads for Yaz.) Beyaz will probably give Bayer a new period of exclusivity and a way to differentiate its product from the generic, non-folic version.

In addition, despite two early studies showing that Yaz was more likely to cause blood clots, more recent studies have either found flaws in those studies or have not found an increased risk.

But Bayer isn't out of the woods yet. One of the plaintiffs lawyers in the Yaz litigation has filed a sealed motion in the case requesting documents on two other Bayer contraceptives, Natazia and Angeliq. Natazia, like Yaz, uses a new progestin-estrogen combo that lawsuits allege increases the likelihood of blood clots.


Image by Flickr user Sunday Kofax, CC.
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