February 10, 2014 — Merck & Co., the manufacturer of NuvaRing birth control, has offered to pay $100 million to settle lawsuits filed by about 3,800 women who developed blood clots.
Women who were severely injured or died would likely receive substantially higher settlements. In comparison, the average settlement for women who had blood clots after taking Yaz birth control was about $200,000.
According to attorneys representing hundreds of plaintiffs, Merck’s plan is unusual because it requires plaintiffs to commit to the agreement first and learn about the amount of compensation later. At least 95% of the plaintiffs must agree to the proposed settlement.
If plaintiffs do not agree, the long-running litigation will continue to drag on. Federal trial dates have been pushed back repeatedly to allow lawyers to negotiate settlement agreements. If they do not agree to a settlement, individual cases will be selected for “bellwether” trials and a jury will help place valuation on NuvaRing injuries.
Plaintiffs allege that Merck failed to properly warn that NuvaRing put them at greater risk of life-threatening blood clots. Merck must update the package safety information for NuvaRing to include the following warning:
“The risk of getting blood clots may be greater with the type of progestin in NuvaRing than with some other progestins in certain low-dose birth control pills.”
What is the problem?
NuvaRing is a clear, flexible ring that women put inside the vagina for three weeks. It releases a combination of hormones that prevent pregnancy by inhibiting ovulation, thickening cervical mucous, and decrease the likelihood that sperm will fertilize an egg.
NuvaRing has been on the market since 2001, and was initially marketed as superior to other contraceptives. But unlike other hormonal options, NuvaRing could substantially increase the risk of blood clots. The progestin in NuvaRing, etonogestrel was linked to doubled risk of blood clots compared to levonorgestrel, and a six-fold increased risk of blood clots compared to women who did not use birth control, according to a study published by the British Medical Journal in 2012.