More than 1,000 women are suing the manufacturers of the contraceptive device NuvaRing alleging that it causes blood clots. Women are claiming that the vaginal ring, which sends out hormones directly into the bloodstream, has caused them to suffer potentially lethal blood clots.

The lawsuits also claim that the manufacturers of the device, Merck, did not properly test or label it to warn consumers about its risks and potential dangers before NuvaRing made it to the market in 2002. The NuvaRing is a small, flexible ring made of transparent plastic, which when inserted into the vagina, releases the hormones estrogen and progestin into the blood stream, preventing ovulation and pregnancy.

Why Are NuvaRing Devices Dangerous?

Women who have used NuvaRing and have suffered dangerous side effects say that the manner in which these devices deliver hormones to the body plays a significant role in their risk factor. Unlike other contraceptives, the NuvaRing emits hormones directly into the woman’s bloodstream. Experts say that these “hormone spikes” experienced by the women may make them vulnerable to blood clots.

While all hormone-based contraceptives are likely to increase a woman’s chance of developing blood clots and strokes, the riskiest ones are those that have hormones such as desogestrel, also known as “third-generation” hormones. NuvaRing uses a compound related to desogestrel. Since 1995, we have seen research that these newer hormones double blood clot risks.

NuvaRing in fact contains a lower dose of hormones than oral contraceptives. However, while birth control pills, lose up to half their hormones in the digestive tract, the ring’s dose is directly absorbed into the blood.

Lawyers for NuvaRing victims say pharmaceutical companies never studied whether this aspect of the ring makes it riskier than taking pills. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) did not demand such a study either. Its approval of NuvaRing in 2002 was based largely on studies involving pills containing similar hormones.

Studies Linking NuvaRing to Blood Clots

Based on numerous complaints filed, even young women who never smoked in their lives, reported suffering from serious blood clots. Even fatalities were reported. A recent study funded by the FDA found that women taking contraceptives such as NuvaRing are 1.4 to four times more likely to develop blood clots than those taking birth control pills with hormones containing second-generation progestin.

Does how the hormone is delivered matter? In a case involving a different product, drug maker Johnson & Johnson discovered that changing the manner of delivery can significantly modify a hormone’s effects. Between 2002 and 2006 at least 40 women died from blood clots after using the company’s Ortho Evra birth control patch, most from blood clots. The company had claimed at the time that its product delivered a more constant, low dose of hormones. However, as it turned out, users of the patches were getting 60 percent more estrogen than women taking regular birth control pills.

However, the cases against NuvaRing have not held up in court. In most of these cases, judges said that the plaintiffs did not sufficiently prove that the rings were the cause of their blood clots. Furthermore, Merck officials have maintained that their products are safe, FDA-approved and a proper birth control method. More than 1,000 cases will go to trial in the federal court system starting this October.

Protecting Your Rights

Fighting a product liability case against a giant pharmaceutical company is no small task. First, it is important that victims of defective drugs understand their legal rights. Injured victims can file a product liability lawsuit seeking compensation for medical expenses, lost wages, cost of hospitalization, permanent injuries, disabilities, pain and suffering and emotional distress.

Families that have lost loved ones as the result of defective drugs or medical devices can seek compensation by filing a wrongful death action against the manufacturer. These drug manufacturers and medical device makers have a responsibility and a legal obligation to test their products before putting them in the market.

However, many are in a hurry to get their products out so they can start raking in the products. This type of corporate greed can be devastating for consumers who pay the ultimate price.