P.I. Pulse: Family Claims Birth Control Device Caused Daughter’s Death

Jun. 5th, 2014   /   , ,

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Birth control pills are supposed to prevent unplanned pregnancies and bring stability to the female body; unfortunately, some forms of birth control can yield a far graver consequence: death.

Erika Langhart was 24 years old when she died in 2011 of a pulmonary embolism, an often-fatal complication during which arteries in the lungs become blocked. Langhart’s family contends that the untimely death – which occurred just before Erika was set to begin law school at Georgetown University – was no random accident, but rather the result of the widely-used birth control device NuvaRing, manufactured by pharmaceutical behemoth Merck.

When Erika’s parents received the tragic call from doctors back in 2011, the medical professionals on the telephone asked whether Erika had been using any forms of birth control and, if so, what kind. When her parents responded and informed the doctors that she had been using NuvaRing, the doctors alarmed the parents by informing them that there had been studies performed linking NuvaRing with complications such as pulmonary embolism.

NuvaRing is unique in the world of birth control pills and devices; it encompasses a hormonal contraceptive within a flexible ring, which is inserted into the vagina for 3 weeks out of every month. According to a recent article in the Daily Mail, the NuvaRing device “slowly releases two hormones into the vaginal wall: ethinyl estradiol … and a progestin called etonogestrel.” Merck, according to the report, has been selling NuvaRing for roughly 12 years. For nearly seven of those years, since 2007, Merck has been facing lawsuits from the patients and families of women who suffered injuries (or even death) from using NuvaRing.

More than 4,000 lawsuits have been filed in connection with the harmful effects of NuvaRing, which has been linked to as many as 224 deaths. In addition to causing untimely deaths, side effects of NuvaRing can include blood clots, strokes and heart attacks, high blood pressure and heart disease, and cancer of the reproductive organs and breast.

The Langhart family was part of a group that received a $100 million settlement offer from Merck; the litigants rejected the offer, claiming that the suit is not about the money. Instead, they would like to see Merck assume responsibility and change corporate behavior in such a way that could save the lives of other potential victims of NuvaRing’s fatal side effects. The family of Erika Langhart, along with others, has pushed the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to require that Merck be more thorough, and more specific, in its warnings to patients who might consider using NuvaRing.

Despite urges to force Merck to include a “black box warning” on NuvaRing packages – which would indicate that the device has the potential to kill patients – the FDA has thus far refused to mandate such a change. And so, for whatever reason the government may be hesitant to require Merck to implement more safety precautions, the civil court system remains available for those who have been injured to state their case and demand justice.

Regardless of who is negligent in causing harm, whether it is a distracted teenage driver or a multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical corporation, individuals who have sustained injury due to the wrongdoing of others have the right and the ability to seek compensation for the damages they’ve incurred. If you feel you’ve been harmed and the fault lies with another, please contact our personal injury attorneys for a free consultation. You can reach us by calling 561-266-9191 or by emailing us at daronberg@aronberglaw.com

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