Essure patients testify at Congressional Briefing, highlight ‘flaws' in FDA approval of the device

CONGRESSIONAL BRIEFING

Women who say they were harmed by the permanent birth control device, Essure , testified Thursday before a Congressional Briefing in Washington, D.C.

Cleveland resident Kim Hudak, 42, told her story to a panel of Congressional aides and officials as part of a Hill Briefing called, “Reforming the FDA: The Impact of Proposed Changes on Patients and Health Policy.”

At age 28, she said he enrolled as part of the clinical trial for a birth control device that was, at the time, called STOP. She had one child and decided she didn’t want more.

The birth control device, now called Essure, consists of two metal coils that are inserted into a woman’s fallopian tubes in order to block conception. It’s billed as a cheaper, non-surgical alternative to tubal ligation, or getting your tubes tied.

But, Hudak said getting Essure began fourteen years of debilitating health problems for her that will likely never be completely resolved.

“Within the first year, I was diagnosed with fibromyalgia, connective tissue disorder, chronic fatigue and restless leg syndrome,” Hudak said. She said she had no previous medial issues.

To read Hudak’s complete speech, click here.

A ‘FLAWED’ CLINICAL TRIAL?

The ABC15 Investigators began reporting on Essure nearly a year ago, when dozens of women across the state came forward to talk about their issues after getting the device . Common complaints include bloating, excessive bleeding, rashes and chronic pelvic pain. Women also told us about serious issues they say resulted from Essure, such as miscarriages and ectopic pregnancies.

After our reporting, the manufacturer, Bayer Health Care, added warnings to the product label , and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) conducted a review of the Adverse Events reported about the device.

Hudak said she obtained her medical records years after participating in the Essure clinical trial, and what she found shocked her.

She said her information had been altered to reflect that she was doing well with the coils. But, she said she had complained of issues the entire time. The issues were documented in the medical exam, but not in the study information, Hudak said.

It’s what Dr. Diana Zuckerman, President of the National Center for Health Research , called a “huge flaw in how problems are reported” to the FDA. She attended the briefing with Hudak and another representative of the more than 8,300 women who have united on the “Essure Problems” Facebook page .

“The patients are reporting problems to the company, and the company isn't reporting them to the FDA,” she told ABC15. “They're saying, ‘Oh that terrible side effect of horrible pain is not related to the device.’”

But, when women have Essure removed by partial or full hysterectomy, she said, most of them feel much better.

FIGHTING FOR OTHER WOMEN

Hudak had a hysterectomy to remove the Essure coils, but said the operation left parts of the coils inside of her.

“It's scary. I don't know some days when I go to bed if I'm going to wake up the next morning because some days I'm really, really sick,” she said.

Now, she’s fighting for the other thousands of women she said are experiencing the same symptoms she has been for more than a decade.

She said she hopes the coils will be removed from the market. But, if they aren’t, she said the FDA needs to thoroughly review the device to determine its safety.

“I don’t want to see these women continue to get sicker,” she said. “I want to see them get help before it’s too late to undo the damage that’s been done.”

If you have had an issue with a medical device, you can report an Adverse Event to the FDA by clicking here .

Bayer told the ABC15 Investigators they continuously review available information about their products, and "when appropriate…work collaboratively with the FDA to update the information available to patients and physicians."

Bayer's Full Statement

At Bayer, we care about patients and take the safety of our products very seriously.  We are saddened to hear of any serious health condition affecting a patient using one of our products, regardless of the cause.  Essure was approved by the FDA in 2002, and has a well-documented benefit-risk profile, with over 400 peer-reviewed publications and abstracts supporting Essure's safety, efficacy and cost-effectiveness.  Approximately 750,000 women worldwide rely upon the Essure procedure for permanent birth control. 

The US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) reviewed, among other things, the results from a five-year Essure study. The FDA found that "[a]lthough there is evidence of complications, as there are with all medical devices, overall results from this study did not demonstrate any new safety problems or an increased incidence of problems already known."

The full FDA report can be found at:

http://www.fda.gov/MedicalDevices/ProductsandMedicalProcedures/ImplantsandProsthetics/ucm371014.htm

In addition, a recent practice bulletin issued by the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) has recognized that

hysteroscopic tubal occlusion for sterilization has high efficacy and low procedure-related risk, cost, and resource requirements. 

No form of birth control is without risk or should be considered appropriate for every woman.  It is important that women discuss the risks and benefits of any birth control option with their physicians.

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