Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Birth Control Health Center

Font Size

Experts: Risk of Birth Control Patch Overstated

Much Less Blood-Clot Risk from Ortho Evra Patch Than From Pregnancy, Experts Say

WebMD Asks a Family Planning Expert

The AP notes that it wasn't the first organization to look at the safety of the Ortho Evra patch. It says that Vanessa Cullins, MD, MPH, MBA, vice president for medical affairs for the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, also looked at the data.

"We did an audit of the available data to see whether or not anything unexpected is occurring with women using the Ortho Evra patch," Cullins tells WebMD. "The answer to that, based on our audit, is no."

Cullins -- as the AP points out -- does serve as a consultant for Ortho McNeil and for other pharmaceutical companies. But she says her focus is on helping women choose between contraceptive options, not on product promotion.

What did the Planned Parenthood audit find? Cullins looks at the issue in terms of woman-years -- that is, the number of women using the patch multiplied by the number of years they used it.

The deaths of 16 women are linked to the contraceptive patch, although most are not directly attributable to Ortho Evra. That's 16 deaths from blood clots and heart attacks and strokes per 4.1 million woman-years. But women taking oral combination contraceptives die of pulmonary embolisms -- blood clots in the lung -- at a much higher rate: 41 cases per 4.1 million woman-years. And that's not even counting deaths from heart attack and stroke.

"The risk of dying from pregnancy beyond 20 weeks is 10.7 per 100,000 live births. The expected death rate from Viagra is six per 100,000 prescriptions," Cullins says. "Sure, that is comparing apples and oranges. But I am putting the risk from what is going on with Evra into context so there will not be panic."

Neither birth control nor pregnancy, Cullins says, is without risk.

"There is a balancing of risk and benefits with any medical decision," she says. "Where the balance lies will vary according to that woman's risk factors, her desire to prevent pregnancy, and what is most important to her as it relates to a choice of a contraceptive."

Today on WebMD

Here's what to expect.
man opening condom wrapper
Do you know the right way to use them?
birth control pills
Here's what to do next.
doctor and patient
His and her options.
Concerned teenage girl
hospital gown
Birth Control Pills Weight Gain
pregnancy test and calendar
contraceptive pills
Young couple looking at each other, serious
woman reading pregnancy test result