A new study published in the Annals of Noninvasive Electrocardiology last month has linked fourth-generation oral contraceptives, including Yasmin birth control, Yaz birth control, and Ocella, to a higher risk of heart problems. Yasmin has already been linked to an increased risk for blood clots, but this new research adds to the list of side effects.
Fourth generation contraceptives contain drospirenone, a synthetic version of the natural hormone progestin. Prior to the study, drospirenone has been linked to a higher risk of blood clots. Researchers found that women who took contraceptives containing drospirenone had a longer corrected QT interval, despite differences in age, race, and other factors that can lead to the side effect. First and second generation oral contraceptives (those which don't contain drospirenone) actually decrease the length of the QT interval. A prolonged corrected QT interval can be indicative of an increased risk of sudden cardiac death. Women who may also be taking other drugs that increase the corrected QT interval, such as antibiotics, are at particular risk.
In April 2012, the Food and Drug Administration released a Drug Safety Communication warning that several studies had linked drospirenone contraceptives to a higher risk for blood clots as opposed to earlier generation contraceptives that contained a different form of progestin. The FDA noted that there was no consistent estimate of the difference of risk, but evidence indicated that it could be as much as three times greater. The risk of developing blood clots is higher when taking any sort of oral contraceptive, but still lower than the risk during pregnancy or the postpartum period. The FDA lists Beyaz, Gianvi, Loryna, Ocella, Safyral, Syeda, Yasmin, Yaz, and Zarah, as approved birth control drugs containing drospirenone.
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