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HEALTH

Contraceptive pills kill 20 women a year in France

Contraceptive pills cause the deaths of 20 women and lead to around 2,500 cases of blood clots each year in France, according to a report released on Tuesday, which appears to confirm newer generation pills pose a greater risk of causing thrombosis.

Contraceptive pills kill 20 women a year in France
Photo: E-magine art/Flickr

According to the report by France’s Medicines Agency (ANSM), which looked at the years from 2000 to 2011, the premature deaths are related to pulmonary embolisms (blocked arteries).

The agency published its report on Tuesday in the light of warnings issued earlier this year on the dangers of taking 3rd and 4th generation pills.

The new report appears to confirm fears that newer generation of pills pose a greater risk of causing thrombosis. Of the 20 deaths each year, 14 are due to the these latest generations of contraceptives and 6 are linked to 1st and 2nd generation pills.

In a statement following the release of the report the ANSM said: "We remind people that there are a large variety of methods of contraception and health professionals are the best placed to inform and help women choose the method of contraception that best suits them."

France have asked the European Medicines Agency (EMA) to change prescription guidelines for so-called 3rd and 4thgeneration oral contraceptives after these drugs were found to carry a higher risk of blood clots compared to earlier versions.

The agency, describing contraceptive pills as carrying only "a very rare risk" of clots, said a special panel would assess whether European guidelines for these drugs should be changed.

The Medicines Agency also found that out of the 2529 women affected by blood clotting each year 778 cases related to 1st and 2nd generation pills and while 1751 were attributed to 3rd and 4th generation contrraceptives.

Contraceptive pills are used by around 4.27 million women each year in France. Sales figures for the pill in February reveal the much publicised health scares have had a significant impact on women taking the contraceptives. According to ANSM sales of 3rd and 4th generation of pills fell by 34 percent whereas sales of 1st and 2nd generation pills  rose by 26 percent.

In January this year France decided to suspend sales of an acne drug whose use as a birth control pill has been linked to the deaths of four women.  ANSM suspended sales of a hormonal treatment called Diane-35, which had been prescribed to 315,000 women in France.

The product, made by the German firm Bayer, is authorized for treating acne in young women, but doctors had been prescribing it as a contraceptive because it stops ovulation.

Diane-35 is sold in 116 countries around the world, according to the ANSM website. Over 25 years, four women have died and 125 fallen ill from blood clots attributed to Diane-35, according to ANSM.

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HEALTH

France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25

Free birth control for all women under 25 will be available in France from Saturday, expanding a scheme targeting under-18s to ensure young women don't stop taking contraception because they cannot afford it.

France brings in free contraception for all women aged 18-25
A doctor holds an interuterine contraceptive device (IUD) before inserting it in a patient. Photo: Adek Berry/AFP

The scheme, which could benefit three million women, covers the pill, IUDs, contraceptive patches and other methods composed of steroid hormones. Contraception for minors was already free in France.

Several European countries, including Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and Norway, make contraception free for teens. Britain makes several forms of contraception free to all.

France announced the extension to women under 25 in September, saying surveys showed a decline in the use of contraception mainly for financial reasons.

The move is part of a series of measures taken by President Emmanuel Macron’s government to boost women’s rights and alleviate youth poverty. The free provision is supported by women’s groups including the association En Avant Tous.

“Between 18 and 25-years-old, women are very vulnerable because they lose a lot of rights compared to when they were minors and are very precarious economically,” spokeswoman Louise Delavier told AFP.

Leslie Fonquerne, an expert in gender issues, said there was more to be done.

“This measure in no way resolves the imbalance in the contraceptive burden between women and men,” the sociologist said.

In some developed countries, the free contraception won by women after decades of campaigning is coming under attack again from the religious right.

In the United States, former president Barack Obama’s signature health reform, known as Obamacare, gave most people with health insurance free access to birth control.

But his successor Donald Trump scrapped the measure, allowing employers to opt out of providing contraception coverage on religious grounds — a decision upheld by the Supreme Court in 2020.

Poland’s conservative government has also heavily restricted access to emergency contraception as part of its war on birth control.

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