TORONTO – An Ontario judge is giving the green light to a London, Ont. law firm to move ahead with a class action lawsuit against Bayer regarding birth control pills Yaz and Yasmin.
At the heart of the lawsuit are allegations that women across Canada were kept in the dark about the increased risk of blood clots, stroke, heart attack and gallbladder disease and other medical conditions they had from taking these contraceptives compared to other birth control pills.
London, Ont.-based law firm Siskinds LLP even suggests that this increased risk was known to drug giant Bayer and that the company chose not to reveal this information to consumers and the medical community.
“It’s a huge deal,” class action lawyer, Matthew Baer told Global News of the judge’s ruling on moving ahead as a class action lawsuit. He’s been working on the case since March 2010.
“If this case didn’t get certified then everyone would have to file individually, which most people wouldn’t do because of costs associated with that,” Baer explained.
The next step is to let the public know that the class action is moving forward: information should make its way to women who took Yaz/Yasmin and they can opt out of the lawsuit or put together their documents to help build their case.
So far, about 2,000 women across Canada have reached out to the law firm. It launched a Facebook page called Taking Your Body Back in 2010. It already has 7,000 followers, with many leaving personal encounters of blood clots.
Similar cases have already taken place in United States, and some have already resulted in settlements, Baer said.
In March, Bayer agreed to pay up to $24 million to settle gallbladder injury claims in Illinois, California, New Jersey and Pennsylvania.
Plaintiffs who suffered gallbladder injuries would receive $2,000 and those who had their gallbladders removed would receive $3,000, according to Reuters.
Another $1 billion will be doled out among 4,800 women who said the pill caused blood clots that resulted in heart attacks, strokes and other injuries.
A lawyer told the wire service that those who suffered from blood clots could get up to $100,000 in damages.
In the U.S., these cases were ultimately consolidated.
“In the U.S., most class actions never go to trial and instead if a class is successfully certified that it’s allowed to go forward as a class action, the defendant settles,” Glenn Cohen, a Harvard law school professor, told Global News.
By April 2012, the US Food and Drug Administration forced Bayer to rewrite labels on their birth control products so they’d emphasize blood clot warnings.
Carrie Gibson, 25, had been taking Yaz for about four years. Last August, she felt a cramp in her leg, so strong, she told her boyfriend about it.
The next day, while grocery shopping, her breathing picked up rapidly, she began sweating and vomiting and she felt like she was going through a panic attack.
Ultimately, she experienced pulmonary embolism, a blockage in the arteries of your lungs caused by blood clots that travel to this vital organ in your body.
Some testing showed that the upper and lower lobes of both her lungs were covered in blood clotting.
Gibson said her doctors linked Yaz as the cause of her condition.
She now heads to hospital at least once a week for blood tests and relies on blood thinners taken through medication and injections to keep her healthy.
The residual effects of what’s happened to her are long-lasting, she said.
“It’s pretty scary what happened,” she told Global News.
“Everytime I lose my breath or if I have a cramp that’s a little different, immediately my mind goes back to wondering if this is happening again,” she explained.
Gibson now deals with fatigue and irregular breathing – issues she wouldn’t have encountered as a healthy 25-year-old.
The drug maker giant said it’s “very disappointed” in the judge’s decision to certify the class action case.
“No decision has been made on the merits of the case. At Bayer patient safety comes first; Bayer fully stands behind its drospirenone-containing combined oral contraceptives (COCs), Yaz and Yasmin,” the company said in a statement to Global News.
“We are currently evaluating our legal options, and as a matter of policy, will not comment further on next steps.”
The company has 30 days to apply for an appeal on the decision.