(See ID # 257730441) Could The Side Effects Include Death? NuvaRing InvestigationPosted: Updated:
44 million prescriptions filled in the United States alone. 4,000 lawsuits filed. 224 deaths in question. Among those, 24 year old Erika Langhart.
"She was remarkable," says her dad Rick Langhart.
At nearly six feet tall, Erika towered over most people. But this beautiful young woman never looked down at anyone.
"We are grateful that she literally lived every day to the fullest," says her mom, Karen.
Erika had traveld the world and worked for two U.S. Senators including John McCain. She was getting ready to begin law school at Georgetown when her parents got the phone call. The kind of call that changes your life forever.
"It's like the world stopped. It will never be the same from that moment on," Karen Langhart said when we sat down with her at the family's home outside Phoenix.
Rick Langhart told us that Erika had suffered four heart attacks.
The Langharts rushed to Washington D.C. to be by their daughter's side. They were there with her but she was already gone. Erika Lanhart would never communicate with her parents again.
They say their daughter, who had no prior history of health problems, suffered a blood clot so massive, it compltely clogged her lungs.
Rick Langhart says the doctor came out and told them directly "your daughter suffered the pulmanary embolism from the NuvaRing".
There is a warning about blood clots on NuvaRing's website and in their commercial it warns: Serious risks include blood clots, stroke or heart attack.
But the Langharts, and thousands of others who have filed legal action against Merck, believe the risk is much higher than is being talked about.
Rick Langhart tells 3TV, "It was never about money. It was about trying to hold Merck responsible."
The Langharts took their claims to the FDA. Karen Langhart testified on Capitol Hill that "Erika's team of doctors, caring doctors -- identified the NuvaRing as the cause of her massive pulmonary embolism and subsuquent death."
3TV reached out to Merck and, in a statement, the pharmaceutical company said, "Nothing is more important to Merck than the safety of our medicines and vaccines and the people who use them. Merck employees, and our families, use Merck medicines, too."
Doctor Erik Gunderson, who has been practicing obstetrics and gynocology for 28 years says despite the controversy he has no problem prescribing NuvaRing telling us, "The NuvaRIng does have labeling showing that compared to taking nothing you will have increased risk of blood clots. Trying to say that is more dangerous than other contraceptive pills is getting into a grey area."
Even Congress is now weighing in on the potential danger.
3TV obtained a letter to the FDA written by six members of Congress including Representative Lousie Slaughter from New York. They write, in part, "In 2010, over 5.5 million prescriptions were written for NuvaRing. By 2011, over 1,000 cases of blood clots were reported. Including a healthy 32 year old woman who died from a blod clot that migrated to her lungs."
They are pushing for a black box warning which alerts women that you could die from using it.
The FDA doesn't think it is necessary.
RIck and Karen Langhart say they are outraged that concerns are not being heard, "We think Merck has control over the FDA," Karen Langhart told us, "We think they have undue influence within the FDA."
We think Merck has control over the FDA. We think they have undue influence within the FDA.
It's been nearly three years since their daughter's death. On May 4th Erika Langhart would have been 27 years old. Time has not eased the pain, nor has it diminished their determination.
The Langharts say they are on a mission.
They want people to know, Karen says, "every adverse event that happens with a drug so that they have real true numbers as to the dangers of these drugs."
Soft spoken and heartbroken, Rick Langhart adds, "Thats what we are going to do the rest of our lives. Thats kind of what we've got left."