On Monday, September 18, 2017, the Bayer laboratory announced that it will stop selling its sterilization implant Essure® in Europe. The controversy surrounding the device has lasted several months, following lawsuits filed by numerous women claiming the implant caused them severe health issues.

This is a first victory for the women filing suit. However, the laboratory said the decision was based only on commercial reason, claiming “the market for its prescription has not been very favorable for the past several months, leading to a continual decreased demand in France”.

In fact, over a thousand women have experienced dysfunction of the implant or adverse side effects between 2003 and February 2017. On August 4, 2017, The National Agency for the Safety of Medicines and Health Products ordered taking the implant off the market for 3 months, paradoxically without addressing the device’s risk/benefit ratio.

This is why the Resist Association insists that the product be recognized as being harmful (immense fatigue, ENT problems, bleeding, depression …) which has severely affected some women’s health. According to the association’s president, Mélanie Klein: “These lawsuits will clarify the lack of safety associated with these implants. The Resist Association requests for a centralized system to be created to clarify, coordinate and manage all the patients’ files; thus economizing time and costs for the procedure and for the victims to be compensated without delay. Searching for the truth regarding the harmfulness of these implants is a priority for our association and for women with these implants. We will soon be soliciting an appointment with the French Health Minister.” 

This announcement comes just when the prosecutor’s office had dropped the case investigation on 3rd and 4th generation pills.  Since March 2013, these pills have no longer been reimbursed by state health insurance.

In 2012, Marion Larat, suffered a stroke, attributed to the 3rd generation pill, Méliane®, also manufactured by the Bayer group, thus setting off serious controversies.  One hundred thirty complaints were filed by women taking this type of pill, which involved 8 different laboratories and the National Agency for the Safety of Medicines and Health Products.

However, after a 4-year investigation, the public prosecutor’s office ruled that there was no criminal offense, and concluding that there was “no cause and effect relationship” between these pills and the serious consequences suffered by the complainants (pulmonary embolism, stroke). However, according to the National Health Authority, a thromboembolism is twice more likely with these pills than with second-generation pills.

In 2012 the conclusions from “the Oversight Commission took into account both the increased risk of venous thromboembolism as well as the absence of demonstrating an increase (in terms of clinical tolerance) for women taking 3rd generation oral contraceptives compared to those from the 1st or 2nd-generation. The medical service offered must thus be qualified as insufficient to be reimbursed by national health insurance”.

Following the public prosecutor’s decision, a lawyer who has defended 84 complainants revealed to France Info that 3 new complaints will now be filed.

How can one understand the difficult hurdles confronting these women just to have consequences to their health symptoms taken into account? It appears difficult to question chemical contraception since ‘the Pill’, is the icon of sexual freedom and represents high profits for the pharmaceutical laboratories.

However, some voices dare to speak out. In her book “I stopped taking the Pill”, published in September 2017, the journalist Sandrine Debusquat carried out a survey on the reasons why fewer women are taking the Pill. She is attempting to shed light on new perspectives. The new generation demands respect for bodily integrity and doesn’t intend to automatically settle for chemical contraception. On September 19, 2017, French newspaper “Le Monde” published an article entitled Why do women stop taking the Pill?on the same subject:

“Little by little, the curtain on the ‘tiny’ side-effects will also be pulled back.

For a long time they were suffered silently without questioning, in the name of freedom and peace of mind, which is no longer acceptable. It is inadmissible in 2017 to suffer nausea, weight gain, mood swings or decreased libido from taking hormones.

A long-overdue debate is just commencing.