Last month, the FDA asked a panel of outside experts whether the blood clot risk for newer birth control pills like Yaz and Yasmin was significant enough to pull the drugs from the market. The panel found that the risk is worth it to prevent pregnancy (which is an even bigger clot risk), but the narrow margin didn't quite inspire confidence. While it seemed like the issue was finally settled, now a watchdog group is asking the FDA to reconsider because it found that four advisers have ties to the companies that make the drugs.
According to Reuters, the Project on Government Oversight (POGO) found that three of the 26 advisers had research or financial ties to Bayer, which makes Yaz and Yasmin. Another is tied to a company that makes the generic version of Yaz. All four voted in favor of keeping the birth control pills on the shelves, though the panel did recommended that the packages feature scarier warning labels.
This week POGO sent a letter to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg asking her to create a new advisory committee (with more carefully vetted members) and have them reconsider if the drugs are safe. Research has shown that women who take birth control pills that contain drospirenone are slightly more at risk for clots than women who take older contraceptives. POGO Executive Director Danielle Brian said, "The American public must be able to trust that the FDA and its advisory committees are making decisions based on science, not industry influence."
The advisers defended their presence on the panel, saying they worked with the companies in the past, but that relationship didn't influence their vote. It's unclear if the FDA didn't know about their ties to the drug companies, or just didn't consider it an issue. Of course, this still doesn't mean that you're likely to drop dead from taking Yaz or Yasmin, but it does raise some concerns about how the FDA is determining what drugs are safe, particularly since there's been a movement recently to loosen conflict of interest rules for experts who sit on FDA panels.