These Birth Control Brands Made A Huge Mistake — Now Women Are Fighting Back

If she looks confused, it's because her pills are upside down and she's not sure whether to trust them.

If she looks confused, it's because her pills are upside down and she's not sure whether to trust them.

It all started back in 2011, when a woman in Kansas City noticed her birth control pills had been reversed in their packaging, switching the numbered order and putting the placebo pills at the beginning of the pack. She quickly returned to her pharmacist to report the error, and from there, things moved quickly — eventually resulting in an FDA recall of 3.2 million blister packs of the pills.

The problem is that recalls on birth control can’t undo what’s been done — when birth control fails, babies happen. Now, 117 women from 26 states are suing the pharmaceutical company Qualitest Inc., a subsidiary of the Irish drug-maker Endo Pharmaceuticals Inc., for millions of dollars in damages. The lawsuit also names names Vintage Pharmaceuticals LLC, Endo Health Solutions Inc., and Patheon Inc., which either made or packaged the recalled birth control pills.

Because of the mixup with the pills, 113 of the women involved in the suit became pregnant, and 94 of those women carried their babies to term. Keith Bodoh, the lead attorney on the case, told the Atlantic back in 2012 that the repercussions of the pill mix-up were “heart-wrenching.” One of his clients had to give up her child for adoption because of a military deployment she was slated to be on, while other clients had to drop out of nursing school and law school because of the pregnancies. Two of the women who became pregnant were minors at the time. “The lives of these people have just been turned upside-down because of this,” Bodoh said.

Worth noting: babies don’t come for cheap. The case seeks reimbursement for the money the women spent on the defective contraceptive, and in some cases, the cost of delivering and raising the children that were born because of the pill mixup.

birth control pills

Of course, the pharmaceutical industry is fighting back. Their argument: women who use contraceptive are aware of the risks involved. Pill manufacturers shouldn’t be held responsible for acts of God or unforeseeable events. (Like, say, the unforeseeable events that happen when the company you trusted to correctly package your pills packages them in reverse order.)

Because of the relatively small number of defective packs that were discovered during the recall—only 53 of 507,966 returned—on November 4 the lawsuit was deemed ineligible to be considered class action. Instead, the cases will focus on the individual women and their individual symptoms. “It is not enough that each class member prove that defendants sold a defective product,” Jones wrote. “Each plaintiff must show in an individualized manner which ‘physical symptoms’ she suffered, her medical history, and whether her use of any allegedly defective product resulted in these physical symptoms or a pregnancy.”

The brand names of the contraceptives involved in the 2011 recall were Cyclafem, Emoquette, Gildess, Orsythia, Previfem and Tri-Previfem.