June 4, 2014 — The parents of a girl who died of a pulmonary embolism after using NuvaRing have rejected a $100 million settlement Merck proposed to resolve a litigation involving about 3,800 lawsuits.
Erika Langhart, 24, was a promising student who was preparing for law school at Georgetown University. She was taking NuvaRing, an O-shaped contraceptive device that prevents pregnancy by slowly releasing hormones. She developed a blood clot that was so massive, it completely clogged her lungs. The massive pulmonary embolism caused her death in 2011.
The $100 million settlement is structured so that 95% of plaintiffs must agree to “opt in.” The settlement works out to about $58,000 per plaintiff. It is a fraction of what other pharmaceutical companies have paid to resolve lawsuits involving similar allegations. Last year, Bayer paid nearly $1.6 billion to resolve about 6,800 lawsuits involving Yaz and Yasmin birth control pills.
The Langhart family says they will not take “blood money” from Merck and are instead fighting for better warning labels on NuvaRing. They accuse the company of downplaying risk information linking NuvaRing with blood clots, heart attack, stroke, pulmonary embolism, and death. At least 224 deaths have been linked to the device.
In 2012, the British Medical Journal published a study showing that women who used NuvaRing were 6.5-times more likely to develop blood clots compared to women who did not use hormonal contraceptives. The researchers also found that women who used NuvaRing were twice as likely to have a blood clot compared to women who used contraceptives containing levonorgestrel, an older progestin. Conclusions were based on data from 1.6 million Danish women between the ages of 15 and 49 who had no prior history of blood clots.