This story is one of my worst fears realized. More than 100 women became pregnant after taking faultily packaged birth control. Now (rightfully so) they’re out for justice, each filing a lawsuit against the manufacturer just last week in Philadelphia.
The company Qualitest Inc., is a subsidiary of the Irish drugmaker Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc., and has its headquarters in Malvern, Pennsylvania, which is why the women are filing in Philly. The suits were actually originally brought up in Atlanta three years ago, but the judge rejected the women’s lawyers’ request for class-action status. So now they’re going for the company on its home turf, and it looks like progress is finally being made.
The original Atlanta case represented 117 women from 26 states. The first to report the issue was a woman from Kansas City who returned her birth control packaging to the pharmacist claiming the pill pack had been flipped 180 degrees. That means those last few placebo pills you’re supposed to take at the end of your cycle were up at the beginning, aka when many women are ovulating. As a result, the FDA recalled over 3.2 million across eight different brands that came in the reversed pill packs, including Cyclafem 1/35, Cyclafem 7/7/7, Emoquette, Gildess FE 1.5/30, Gildess FE 1/20, Orsythia, Previfem, and Tri-Previfem. While it may have been just a little assembly line oversight, it effectively upheaved all these women’s lives.
So many women (myself included) rely on the pill as their primary birth control, and because they’ve been taking it for years, most probably no longer even glance at the packaging. Essentially, we’re putting blind faith into the birth control manufacturer because they claim to deliver an almost foolproof product. If something goes wrong in production, it’s not like an E. coli outbreak that might make you sick for several days. The consequence is an unplanned pregnancy — the exact thing the product is supposed to prevent. Did I mention this is my nightmare?
Of the 113 women who became pregnant from the packaging mistake, 94 carried their babies to term. Keith Bodoh, the original lead attorney, said several women had to give up law school and nursing school to take care of their surprise babies. Two women were only 17 years old.
The affected women are seeking millions of dollars in damages as well as remuneration for medical costs, and the cost of raising the children begotten from this accident.
This is far from the first time a birth control manufacturer has been responsible for such a packaging error. Back in April of 2012, Pfizer had to recall over a million birth control packets, because they had inadequate doses of hormones. And it wasn’t just a mechanical error that caused the problem — these million packets somehow passed visual inspection, too.
I know all of this might make you second guess your chosen birth control, but before you do, remember this, the number of errors is relatively low in retrospect. Yes, it’s unfortunate what these women are dealing with, but there’s risk behind all birth control and, in the end, unplanned pregnancy is not the worst thing that could happen.