SHARE
COPY LINK

HEALTH

France calls in EU to review contraceptive pills

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) on Monday said it would review safety data for third- and fourth-generation birth control pills, responding to French concern that these contraceptives may cause dangerous blood clots.

France calls in EU to review contraceptive pills
File photo: Richard Dunstan

The European Medicines Agency (EMA) on Monday said it would review safety data for third- and fourth-generation birth control pills, responding to French concern that these contraceptives may cause dangerous blood clots.

The agency, describing oral contraceptives as carrying only "a very rare risk" of clots, said a watchdog panel would assess whether European guidelines for using later versions of the Pill should be changed.

On January 11, France announced it would ask the EMA to modify prescription recommendations for the third- and fourth-generation pills.

It pointed to evidence that their use led to higher risk of blood clots compared with older versions of the Pill, although the risk in absolute terms is small.

France wants guidelines changed so that doctors no longer prescribe later-generation pills as a first option.

EMA said its Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee (PRAC) would be carrying out the review, the first time a member-state has asked for such an assessment for a contraceptive pill.

"Combined oral contraceptives are kept under close monitoring by national pharmacovigilance systems," EMA said in a press release.

"There is no reason for any woman to stop taking her contraceptive. If a woman has concerns, she can discuss this with her doctor."

The third-generation Pill was introduced in the 1990s, and the 4th generation in the last decade.

They contain synthetic versions of the female hormone progestogen, which the makers say avoid some of the side-effects of older formulations.

A Danish study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) in 2011 found women who took one of the newer types of Pill ran twice the risk of developing blood clots in the veins than those who used older-generation drugs.

Compared with non-users of the Pill, the risk of a clot was between three and six times higher.

Clots formed in the veins can break up and be transported to the heart or lungs and may be fatal.

In absolute terms, though, the risk is small, experts stress.

EMA said that birth-control pills in general "carry a very rare risk" of these clots. It said there were between 20 and 40 cases per 100,000 women in one year of use; third- and fourth-generation pills carried a relatively higher risk. Risks were described in leaflets to patients and doctors.

About 2.5 million women in France take the 3rd- and 4th-generation Pill, about half of all oral contraceptive users.

The storm in France was triggered partly by the case of a 25-year-old woman, Marion Larat, who was left badly handicapped by a stroke that, in a lawsuit, she attributed to a later-generation pill made by German firm Bayer.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

EUROPEAN UNION

The Euro celebrates its 20th anniversary

The euro on Saturday marked 20 years since people began to use the single European currency, overcoming initial doubts, price concerns and a debt crisis to spread across the region.

The Euro celebrates its 20th anniversary
The Euro is projected onto the walls of the European Central Bank in Brussels. Photo: Daniel Rolund/AFP

European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen called the euro “a true symbol for the strength of Europe” while European Central Bank President Christine Lagarde described it as “a beacon of stability and solidity around the world”.

Euro banknotes and coins came into circulation in 12 countries on January 1, 2002, greeted by a mix of enthusiasm and scepticism from citizens who had to trade in their Deutsche marks, French francs, pesetas and liras.

The euro is now used by 340 million people in 19 nations, from Ireland to Germany to Slovakia. Bulgaria, Croatia and Romania are next in line to join the eurozone — though people are divided over the benefits of abandoning their national currencies.

European Council President Charles Michel argued it was necessary to leverage the euro to back up the EU’s goals of fighting climate change and leading on digital innovation. He added that it was “vital” work on a banking union and a capital markets
union be completed.

The idea of creating the euro first emerged in the 1970s as a way to deepen European integration, make trade simpler between member nations and give the continent a currency to compete with the mighty US dollar.

Officials credit the euro with helping Europe avoid economic catastrophe during the coronavirus pandemic.

“Clearly, Europe and the euro have become inseparable,” Lagarde wrote in a blog post. “For young Europeans… it must be almost impossible to imagine Europe without it.”

In the euro’s initial days, consumers were concerned it caused prices to rise as countries converted to the new currency. Though some products — such as coffee at cafes — slightly increased as businesses rounded up their conversions, official statistics have shown that the euro has brought more stable inflation.

Dearer goods have not increased in price, and even dropped in some cases. Nevertheless, the belief that the euro has made everything more expensive persists.

New look

The red, blue and orange banknotes were designed to look the same everywhere, with illustrations of generic Gothic, Romanesque and Renaissance architecture to ensure no country was represented over the others.

In December, the ECB said the bills were ready for a makeover, announcing a design and consultation process with help from the public. A decision is expected in 2024.

“After 20 years, it’s time to review the look of our banknotes to make them more relatable to Europeans of all ages and backgrounds,” Lagarde said.

Euro banknotes are “here to stay”, she said, although the ECB is also considering creating a digital euro in step with other central banks around the globe.

While the dollar still reigns supreme across the globe, the euro is now the world’s second most-used currency, accounting for 20 percent of global foreign exchange reserves compared to 60 percent for the US greenback.

Von der Leyen, in a video statement, said: “We are the biggest player in the world trade and nearly half of this trade takes place in euros.”

‘Valuable lessons’

The eurozone faced an existential threat a decade ago when it was rocked by a debt crisis that began in Greece and spread to other countries. Greece, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and Cyprus were saved through bailouts in return for austerity measures, and the euro stepped back from the brink.

Members of the Eurogroup of finance ministers said in a joint article they learned “valuable lessons” from that experience that enabled their euro-using nations to swiftly respond to fall-out from the coronavirus pandemic.

As the Covid crisis savaged economies, EU countries rolled out huge stimulus programmes while the ECB deployed a huge bond-buying scheme to keep borrowing costs low.

Yanis Varoufakis, now leader of the DiEM 25 party who resigned as Greek finance minister during the debt crisis, remains a sharp critic of the euro. Varoufakis told the Democracy in Europe Movement 25 website that the euro may seem to make sense in calm periods because borrowing costs are lower and there are no exchange rates.

But retaining a nation’s currency is like “automobile assurance,” he said, as people do not know its value until there is a road accident. In fact, he charged, the euro increases the risk of having an accident.

SHOW COMMENTS