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Ocella birth control (generic Yasmin) is an oral contraceptive that contains synthetic hormones (specifically, drospirenone and ethinyl estradiol). Studies have found that the hormones in Ocella are associated with an increased risk of acute pancreatitis, which is a severe medical emergency that occurs when the pancreas becomes suddenly inflamed. Severe cases of Ocella pancreatitis may require surgery to remove damaged pancreatic tissue, as well as aggressive management of infection to prevent multiple organ system failure, permanent disability, or death.

Overview

Ocella is a birth control pill modeled on Yasmin. Unlike Yasmin, Ocella is distributed by the massive generic drug companies Teva Pharmaceuticals and Barr Laboratories. Ocella gained FDA-approval in 2008. Ocella is approved for the same indications as Yasmin, which include reducing the risk of pregnancy, treating mild acne, and treating symptoms of Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD).

Like Yasmin, Ocella contains a combination of two hormones: drospirenone, which is a “fourth generation” version of synthetic progestin, and ethinyl estradiol, which is a synthetic version of estrogen. Unfortunately, the hormones in Ocella has become a source of controversy. The FDA recently announced that they will be forcing manufacturers to update the warnings on Ocella to include information that drospirenone may triple a woman’s risk of suffering a blood clot. Furthermore, the estrogen in Ocella is associated with an increased risk of acute pancreatitis.

Ocella Pancreatitis

Ocella is known to increase a woman’s risk of pancreatitis, likely due to the estrogen in Ocella. It is still unclear how the hormones in Ocella could cause pancreatitis, but it is thought that one side effect of hormonal therapy is a change in the way the body metabolizes lipids. This may result in higher levels of triglycerides circulating in a woman’s bloodstream. Another theory is that the mild diuretic effect of Ocella increases the risk of pancreatitis.

What is Pancreatitis?

Acute pancreatitis is a serious medical emergency that occurs when the pancreas becomes suddenly inflamed. The pancreas is an important organ in the digestive system, which is responsible for secreting digestive enzymes into the intestines, and also releasing metabolic-regulating hormones (insulin, glucagon) into the bloodstream.

If pancreatitis is severe or is not treated quickly, tissues inside the pancreas may become damaged. Parts of the pancreas may start bleeding (hemorrhagic pancreatitis). If the pancreas is ruptured, caustic digestive enzymes spill into the abdominal cavity. This causes severe damage within the abdomen. Damage or death of tissues in the pancreas and abdomen is called necrotizing pancreatitis. This tissue is likely to become infected. The infection can spread rapidly to other areas of the body, leading to multiple organ system failure, disability, and death.

Signs & Symptoms of Ocella Pancreatitis

  • The sudden or gradual onset of severe pain in the abdomen
  • The abdomen may be very tender and sensitive to the touch
  • Pain may radiate to the back, shoulder, or arms
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Indigestion
  • Oily, smelly stools
  • Fever
  • Ill appearance

Treatment for Ocella Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis is a life-threatening medical emergency that must be treated in a hospital. Support will typically involve aggressive management of the infection. The patient will likely be admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU), where they will be given pain medication to treat severe abdominal pain. The patient must fast, to stop the pancreas from producing more digestive enzymes. In many cases of severe pancreatitis, the patient requires emergency surgery to remove dead or damaged pancreatic tissue. The kidneys, lungs, and heart may also need support.