The drug in question is Yaz or Yasmin - a contraceptive pill that hit the market in 2008 promising to clear up acne and reduce monthly symptoms.
Australians were blissfully unaware of the thousands of women in the US who had reported severe side effects from Yaz and Yasmin.More stories from Today Tonight
The side effects included heart attacks, strokes, blindness and deadly blood clots.
The pill's manufacturer has been hit by lawsuits in the US and at least 2000 women will be mounting a class action in Canada in the near future.Four women in every 10,000 will suffer blood clots on any birth control pill, but the risk with Yaz and Yasmin is two to three times higher.
Pharmaceutical company Bayer, who make the pill, have already paid out $720 million in settlements.
Despite the reported horror stories, the drug remains on the market. In fact it was re-released last year with a fancy new dispenser.
Professor Phelps claims she knew nothing about the risks associated with Yaz.
She fell victim to a blood clot that travelled to her lungs and ended up in a coma.
"The only warning sign I had was a couple of days before, when obviously the embolism had begun. I had a cough and I was feeling breathless and incredibly tired. I was told I looked very pale and unwell. It got worse and that’s when I went to the hospital," Professor Phelps recalled.
"It was incredibly traumatic. It was terribly frightening. I didn’t know if I was going to survive," she said.
Fellow Yaz victim, 26-year-old Jess, had tried countless contraceptive pills before a GP recommended she try this one.
Before changing to Yaz she had suffered from nausea, migraines and weight gain. However after changing to Yaz Jess suffered no side effects for six years.
That all changed in February this year when Jess suffered a niggling pain in her foot and was diagnosed with a massive blood clot.
"I had no idea until I was laying on a hospital bed. I literally Googled Yaz and realised there is something serious going on here," Jess said.
Women's magazine Marie Claire’s story on Yaz this month has prompted Dr Phelps and many other affected women to come forward.According to editor Jackie Frank the story received one of the biggest responses the magazine has seen.
"The Australian authorities have looked at this, they've seen all the law suits, they've seen what's going on, but they're not pulling it off the market," Frank said.
Neither Bayer or The Therapeutic Goods Association (TGA) were willing to be interviewed.In a statement the TGA said it is 'closely monitoring Yaz and Yasmin and any new cases that come to life, and will update product information accordingly'.
Bayer said, in a statement, 'the very small risk of clots with all combined pills has been recognised for many years and is clearly outlined in product information supplied to doctors'.
1. In response to these anticipated allegations we make the following points and we ask that Today Tonight incorporate our response into its story, as any responsible media program would do to ensure that it provides balanced and accurate information to the public about an issue as important as women's health. Patient safety is a top priority for Bayer.
2. All medicines, including contraceptives, carry benefits and risks.
3. Bayer recommends that doctors discuss these risks with patients when considering contraceptive options.
4. Bayer always works closely with the health and regulatory authorities and medical professionals to exchange all relevant information concerning the use and the benefit-risk profile of our products.
5. All combined oral contraceptives carry risks, including an increased risk of thromboembolism (blood clots). This risk has been recognised for many years. The increased risk is very small and lower than the risk of thromboembolism in pregnancy. The use of combined oral contraceptives is not the only risk factor for venous thromboembolism as age, smoking, family history, inherited coagulation abnormalities, obesity and prolonged immobilisation have all been shown to increase the risk of venous thromboembolism.6. Information about venous thromboembolism risk, and other risks associated with Yasmin and YAZ, is detailed in:
a) the Consumer Medicine Information which Bayer provides in all of its packs of Yasmin and YAZ (copies enclosed); and
b) the Product Information which Bayer provides to medical professionals (copies enclosed).
7. The contents of the Consumer Medicine Information and Product Information are approved by Australia's regulator of therapeutic goods, the Therapeutic Goods Association (the TGA).
8. Bayer, in concert with the TGA, ensures the Product Information of Yasmin and YAZ is regularly updated to provide information on the range of studies published on the topic of venous thromboembolism risk.
9. The TGA has also published information on its website at http://www.tga.gov.au/safety/alerts-medicine-oral-contraceptives-110706.htm about the risk of venous thromboembolism.
10. Information published by Bayer about Yasmin and YAZ is based on a thorough assessment of the available scientific data by regulatory authorities, external independent experts and Bayer scientists.
All prescribing doctors should be aware of the risks associated with combined oral contraceptives, and will need to take them into consideration when discussing and prescribing the most appropriate contraceptive for a woman.More Information on Yaz and Yasmin:
- Yasmin Contraceptive Tablets for Women - Yasmin Consumer Medicine Information
- Yasmin Contraceptive Tablets for Women - Yasmin Product Information
- Yaz Contraceptive Tablets for Women - Yaz Consumer Medicine Information
- Yaz Contraceptive Tablets for Women - Yaz Product Information
This reporter is on Twitter at @adenecassidy7