Are Essure Birth Control Implants Dangerous?

On December 31, 2018, Bayer stopped selling and distributing the Essure birth control device in the United States. Bayer will continue to implement the FDA’s restriction on sale and distribution of Essure from April 2018, to ensure women are fully informed of the severe health risks associated with the device.

Since the Essure Birth Control System was brought to market in 2002 by Bayer AG, over a million units have been sold and implanted—the majority of the devices are marketed to American women. Essure is an invasive birth control device consisting of two metal coils inserted into the fallopian tubes to prevent unintended pregnancies.

However, the last 15 years have proven that the device is far from perfect, and thousands of women have reported serious injuries and health issues directly related to Essure implants. As of 2016, over 10,000 Essure-related medical device adverse event reports were submitted to the U.S Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

In February, 2016, the FDA ordered Bayer to conduct a 7-year study on Essure complications. In the meantime, injuries continue to accumulate and numerous class-action lawsuits have been filed against Bayer and pharmaceutical developers for failing to properly test the medical devices before bringing them to the market.

Essure has been linked to at least four adult deaths, 15 fetal deaths and hundreds of unwanted pregnancies. The FDA has received countless other reports of serious side effects, submitted by physicians and suffering patients.

Any patient with an injury due to implantation of an Essure Birth Control System may have a successful claim and can recover mounting medical costs, lost wages, and damages for physical and emotional trauma.

Joe Lyon is a highly-rated Cincinnati product liability lawyer and Ohio toxic tort attorney representing plaintiffs nationwide in a wide variety of civil litigation claims against pharmaceutical and medical device companies. 

Bayer Halts Essure Sales

Due to longstanding safety concerns related to the Essure birth control device, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has taken action and announced significant new requirements on the device use.

Bayer has said that Essure will no longer be sold or distributed in the U.S. after Dec. 31, 2018. Years of patient complaints, injuries and legal pressure have taken its toll on the company. However, many injured patients may still be suffering as a result of the defective medical device.

The FDA has taken several steps with warning about Essure, a permanent birth control device, though failed to completely recall the product. The FDA has evaluated Essure’s long-term safety risks and eventually made Essure a “restricted device.”

Even in 2019 when Essure is no longer sold in the United States, the FDA will still oversee the device, requiring Bayer to complete the post-market surveillance study ordered in 2016.

What is Essure?

Essure is a birth control system that over time creates a barrier in the Fallopian tubes that keeps sperm from reaching the eggs, thus preventing conception.
The U.S. FDA approved the Essure Permanent Birth Control System in 2002. Bayer AG, the current manufacturer, says about 1 million of the devices have been sold globally, the majority in the United States.

However, thousands of women are filing birth control injury lawsuits, and making claims that Essure has caused significant damage to their bodies. The FDA has received reports of pregnancy losses in women who became pregnant following Essure placement.

Bayer admits that women who have had the Essure placement procedure are more likely to have a pregnancy outside the uterus (ectopic pregnancy) than women who have not had the Essure placement procedure. This can be life-threatening.

How Does Essure Work?

The Essure system consists of two metal coils implanted in each Fallopian tube. The device itself is a small, flexible coil made from an alloy of nickel and titanium. A doctor inserts the coils in a procedure that typically takes less than 15 minutes.

Scar tissue is meant to develop in the tube to prevent fertilization. After about three months, tissue is supposed to form around the inserts, blocking the tubes and permanently preventing pregnancy. While scar tissue forms, women are urged to use an alternative form of birth control.

Dangerous Essure Side Effects

The most commonly reported complication of Essure is pain following surgery. In almost 10,000 reports analyzed, pain is mentioned in nearly every one. Making matter worse, sometimes the pain does not subside. Chronic pelvic pain, abdominal bloating, migraine-type headaches and severe fatigue appear to be most common adverse health events reported. Other complications include:

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Weight changes
  • Hair loss
  • Depression
  • Allergic or hypersensitivity reactions
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Vaginal bleeding
  • Abnormal weight gain
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Hives and rashes
  • Impairments of short-term memory

Essure Birth Control Risks

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it will require German drug maker Bayer AG to begin new safety studies on its permanent birth control device Essure. Later, the company decided it was not worth the trouble and stopped producing the device for the US market.

The FDA also required a “black box” label warning about the device’s potentially serious side effects, something the drug company has resisted in the past. In addition to the new boxed warning, the FDA will require a “Patient Decision Checklist” to help ensure women receive and understand information regarding the risks of this type of device.

Thousands of women have complained about suffering complications from the implant. As a result, women are beginning to speak out and file lawsuits.
Women claim the device has caused permanent birth control injury, including autoimmune diseases, perforated organs and severe pelvic pain.

Among the thousands of reports the FDA had received about Essure, 631 women report becoming pregnant after receiving an Essure implant. Of those, 294 included pregnancy loss.

Recently, experts have questioned the FDA reporting process and have found that risks associated with Essure are significantly higher than reported.

Compared to women who have sought alternative, minimally-invasive sterilization operations, women who receive Essure implants are ten times more likely to need a second operation, according to a study published in the British Medical Journal. Other long-term risks to patients reported to the FDA include:

  • Unintended pregnancy
  • Depression
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Chronic abdominal, pelvic or back pain
  • Abnormally heavy menstrual periods on a recurring basis
  • Perforation of the uterus or fallopian tubes

Essure Warnings & Recalls

Bayer insists the device is effective when inserted properly. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced actions to provide important information about the risks.

Dr. William Maisel, chief scientist at the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health, stated that “more rigorous research is needed to better understand if certain women are at heightened risk of complications.”

The FDA’s recent decision requires Bayer to conduct a new study designed to “provide important information about the risks of the device in a real-world environment.” Now the company must follow patients who receive the device, and monitor problems.

This includes noting the rates of complications including unplanned pregnancy, pelvic pain and other symptoms, and surgery to remove the device. The study will also evaluate how much these complications affect a patient’s quality of life.

While scientific evidence shows that Essure is an effective means of sterilization, hundreds of unintended pregnancies have occurred. Some neonatal or pregnancy complications have been reported and the FDA has received reports of pregnancy losses in women who became pregnant following Essure placement. There may also be a risk of pregnancy outside of the uterus (ectopic pregnancy), likely to result in serious complications.

Essure Birth Control Injury

In April 2018, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) commissioner announced that the safety agency imposed “unique” restrictions on sales of permanent contraceptive device Essure, due primarily to Essure implant injury risks, and an “unacceptable” number of women being implanted without full knowledge of Essure implant injury risks.

The FDA said in their statement that despite other efforts to alert women to the potential complications of Essure, many patients still aren’t receiving important information.

Now, Bayer will only be authorized to sell the device to health-care providers that collect signatures confirming that patients have received a detailed checklist explaining known Essure implant risks. Consumer advocates, attorneys and the FDA are working to detail injury claims and make certain they are being taken seriously to protect women.

Commonly reported adverse events associated with the Essure device include device migration, allergic reactions and chronic pain. Though rare, more severe adverse events have been reported, like the perforation of the uterus, and fetal deaths.

Essure Implant Complications

The Black Box warning clarified the potential need to have the device removed. According to the FDA website, the labeling on Essure birth control packaging is “designed to call attention to serious or life-threatening risks.” Before the device is implanted, a checklist must also be provided to the patient to make sure they understand the risks.

The most commonly reported adverse events associated with Essure have included device migration, allergic reactions and pain. However, more severe events have also been reported, such as perforation of the Fallopian tubes or uterus, and fetal deaths.

If a woman becomes pregnant with Essure, there may be a risk for the pregnancy to occur outside of the uterus, which may result in serious complications. The FDA continues to monitor the safety of this device. Many women have had surgical procedures to remove the device.

The FDA has received over 26,000 medical device reports of injuries reportedly caused by Essure implants, including life-threatening ectopic pregnancy, miscarriages, device migration, and perforated organs. A painful revision surgery is usually required to remove the device in these cases. Short-term and long-term adverse events reported by doctors and Ohio patients include:

  • Abdominal or pelvic pain
  • Back pain
  • Perforation of the uterus
  • Device migration
  • Irregular bleeding
  • Weight changes
  • Hair loss
  • Auto-immune disorders
  • Device failure
  • Mood changes
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Allergic reactions
  • Unintended pregnancies

Essure Birth Control Injury Settlements

According to an analysis, 303 fetal deaths have been linked to the Essure contraceptive. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) greatly underestimated the rate of fetal deaths among women who became pregnant after they used the contraceptive device; they initially only reported five fetal deaths.

The Food and Drug Administration blamed a computer glitch for the inconsistencies in its safety data, and is now taking responsibility for the mistake.

Opponents of the device have waged a social media campaign to see that Essure is pulled from the market. There is a large Facebook group called Essure Problems, where thousands of female members share stories about health problems they have experienced after receiving the device.

The issue is so widespread in communities that congress has also questioned the device and Bayer’s intentions. Rep. Mike Fitzpatrick, a congressman from Pennsylvania, has pushed the FDA to halt the device’s use. He has asked why the agency would allow Bayer to conduct their own safety studies, rather than have an independent party complete a report.

Essure Lawsuits

Since Essure hit the marketplace, doctors and patients reported hundreds of problems. The discontinued device further indicates the potential danger the device can pose to women. Thousands of lawsuits have been already been filed against Bayer for a number of adverse health outcomes with many more expected with the device still on the market.

Even before the latest word from the FDA, Fitzpatrick publicly urged the agency in a letter to review an independent report that counted 303 fetal deaths.

Rep. Rosa DeLauro, from Connecticut added to the pressure by saying recently, “Essure should be off the market until the requested studies are completed.”

Bayer, the device manufacturer, downplays any Essure Implant risks, and maintains the device is safe to use, despite evidence that injuries are rather common. The concerns of experts are not new, however. The FDA first added a black box warning to Essure implant labeling back in 2016. A black box warning is the safety agency’s highest warning level and indicates that a product can cause serious injuries or death.

Since Essure was introduced in 2002, doctors and patients have reported hundreds of health issues. More recently, Bayer was forced to adhere to new labeling requirements clarifying the potential risks the device poses to women.

But in many cases, the damage has already been done. As a result, thousands of injured plaintiffs have filed claims against Bayer. With Essure still on the US market, it is likely more injuries will occur and more lawsuits will subsequently be filed.

If you or a loved one has suffered an injury after implantation of an Essure birth control device, and have questions about the legal remedies available to improve quality of life and medical care in Ohio, contact The Lyon Firm at (800) 513-2403. You will speak directly with Mr. Lyon, and he will help you answer these critical questions.