Written by Aaron R. Winston
Last Updated: May 5, 2023 2:40am CDT
When we purchase a product or retain the services of a company, it is reasonable to expect things to go according to plan. Any product we buy would function as intended and have no adverse side effects in a perfect world.
Unfortunately, we do not live in a perfect world, and products are prone to having issues. Even more unfortunate is that faulty medical products have become too common. As technology advances, so does medication and medical devices. However, new does not necessarily mean better, especially if the medical implant is defective.
Of late, one category of relatively new medical products that have seen cases of causing harm to the users is non-oral contraceptives known as contraceptive implants. In this article, we will discuss litigation aspects of a specific contraceptive implant, the NuvaRing, which has increased due to safety and health concerns.
There is no prescription medicine or medical device without the risk of adverse side effects. However, some lines can be crossed that can have legal implications for the makers of the products. Recently, NuvaRing product liability issues have led to legal complications and options depending on whether you are the company or the significant number of customers who use the product.
However, even with NuvaRing being used by millions of people, a significant population is unaware of the situation with the NuvaRing product, let alone the legal options they or their loved ones may have.
The knowledge that NuvaRing’s products have been causing health issues is vital to any woman currently using or considering using the contraceptive to avoid an unwanted pregnancy.
This article will give an overview of the situation involving the NuvaRing products causing health issues in some women and the subsequent legal battles the NuvaRing company has faced as a result.
What Happened With The NuvaRing?
As we have mentioned above, NuvaRing® is a contraceptive device. More specifically, the NuvaRing consists of a small, flexible piece of plastic inserted as a vaginal ring once a month to prevent pregnancy.
The NuvaRing has become a preferred contraceptive for those who would understandably like to avoid taking other forms of birth control devices and birth control pills, with over 5,000,000 prescriptions for NuvaRing birth control being issued annually. There are other similar product brands, like Kyleena and the Mirena IUD. However, we will focus our attention on the NuvaRing in this article.
Even though NuvaRings are a convenient alternative to classic pharmaceuticals like birth control pills, the contraceptive ring has been shown to cause some of the same unpleasant side effects.
More Common Side Effects of NuvaRing and Birth Control Pills:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Breast tenderness or enlargement
- Spotting or breakthrough bleeding
- Weight gain
- Mood changes, depressed mood, or mood swings
However, the NuvaRing has been linked to higher risks of more harmful side effects. Specifically, the NuvaRing has been linked to increased risks of blood clots in its users.
More importantly, from a NuvaRing lawsuit perspective, is the fact that the odds of these harmful side effects are higher than were listed on the product box warning label.
Like most women’s medicinal birth control medication options, the NuvaRing is a combination hormone contraceptive. It releases a constant low dose of estrogen and progestin, which interfere with the body’s natural production of certain hormones.
Recent healthcare studies on the effects of the NuvaRing on the body have found that women who used the vaginal ring run a higher risk of such effects than most other hormonal contraceptives. In addition to blood clotting, the NuvaRing has been found to cause:
- Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
- Pulmonary Embolism
- Death (In rare cases.)
This higher chance of these potential and dangerous side effects brings us to discuss the onset of the legal complications faced by NuvaRing and the company that makes it, Merck.
Already back in 2012, over 1,000 reports of blood clots linked to a woman using the NuvaRing product were reported to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These blood clots led to serious blood clotting injuries in most victims, causing even some to die.
The truly troubling thing about the sudden onset of reports against NuvaRing is that concerns about potential health risks had arisen as early as 2007. Moreover, the research corroborating these concerns began with studies published in 2009, which found that desogestrel, a primary ingredient in NuvaRings, could cause health issues.
Additionally, the FDA conducted a study in 2011 that discovered that women were 48% more likely to suffer from venous thrombosis while using NuvaRing. Then a year later, another study conducted by Danish researchers made a similar discovery that the NuvaRing doubled the chances of women developing deep-vein thrombosis.
NuvaRing countered these studies with essentially its own study conducted by one of NuvaRing’s manufacturers that claimed the NuvaRing did not affect the rate of blood clotting. However, this study was never peer-reviewed, and its legitimacy is in doubt.
Finally, another study conducted in 2012 reviewed 625 other studies evaluating combined hormonal contraceptives. Twenty-five of the studies underwent additional scrutiny and found further evidence supporting the claim that desogestrel was harmful and caused blood clotting.
Ultimately, most research supports that hormonal contraceptives containing this particular substance lend themselves to blood clots and pulmonary embolisms.
The reports to the FDA are not the only issue that NuvaRing’s makers have to worry about. In addition to the thousands of reports being sent to the FDA, 700 victims filed lawsuits against NuvaRing for the health problems and suffering they experienced.
Unfortunately, for those left with serious injuries, their legal journey against NuvaRing likely led to some lackluster unfulfilling consequences for the NuvaRing company.
Did Merck Recall The NuvaRing Products?
Generally, when a product is linked to increased health concerns, the company that makes the product does a voluntary product recall to stem any further damage and liability on its party.
However, when companies don’t take the initiative, the FDA is known to enforce mandatory recalls in the interest of public health and safety.
So understandably, the women and families submitting reports of the NuvaRing against Merck expected that the FDA would issue a mandatory recall. Unfortunately, the FDA has yet to issue such a recall order and has allowed NuvaRing to remain on the market for purchase.
Three pharmaceutical companies manufacture NuvaRing:
- Merck & Co., Inc
- Organon Pharmaceutical
There NuvaRing also has generic versions available, with FDA approval. Generics are typically the more affordable price option.
Pharmaceutical companies manufacture generic NuvaRing:
- Teva Pharmaceuticals USA makes etonogestrel ring
- Amneal Pharmaceuticals makes EluRyng
- Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories makes VeraRing
The FDA and the NuvaRing manufacturers have failed to issue any recall orders on the product despite the links between NuvaRing and increased blood clots.
Instead, the NuvaRing has continued to be allowed and remains available for purchase with little more than adding a simple written warning on the box. Far from the seriousness of a black box warning.
The manufacturers only added the warning after the initial wave of lawsuits arose in the form of a “black box” label, meaning there is a black square with the text written within it. The details on NuvaRing’s risk of blood clots are also woefully minimal, with the box only stating:
WARNING: CIGARETTE SMOKING AND SERIOUS CARDIOVASCULAR EVENTS
See full prescribing information for complete boxed warning.
• Women over 35 years old who smoke should not use NuvaRing. (4)
• Cigarette smoking increases the risk of serious cardiovascular events from combination hormonal contraceptive (CHC) use. (4)
The above warning, listed on the NuvaRing box, is minimal and less than ideal for warning people of the increased risk associated with the NuvaRing contraceptive.
Combining the minimal warning label and there not being a product recall set the basis for victims to take continued tort action and file the lawsuits brought against the NuvaRing companies.
Those lawsuits were the sort that required direct victims of the unmarked product causing blood clots, such as the 700 that were litigated. The sheer number of claimants staking a claim against the manufacturers of NuvaRing led to the creation of a class-action lawsuit.
What is a Class-Action Lawsuit?
A class-action lawsuit is a complicated legal proceeding that differs significantly from the standard form of lawsuit seen in the court of law or justice system. The most significant difference is that a class-action tort claim involves multiple claimants filing against the same defendant(s). The many individual cases can be consolidated down to a single class action.
In this case, the claimants are the women or families of the women who suffered severe side effects from using a NuvaRing contraceptive, and the defendant is Merck.
However, in class-action suits, the multiple plaintiffs tend to be filed in one large group rather than numerous individual claims – this does not mean that some claimants get ignored while processing the case. It simply means that the case is self-contained.
A class-action suit enables the plaintiffs to come together, including those who might not have initially been aware of their suffering, and seek compensation.
Like other class actions and MDL, every claimant’s suffering is considered during the NuvaRing settlement negotiations to ensure that each injured or damaged victim receives a settlement equal to the suffering and cost they endured due to the defendant. In this case, Merck’s liability in creating NuvaRing and the loss of each woman who suffered from severe clots due to its use.
Because of all the many different claimants, a lead plaintiff is generally assigned to the case, and that plaintiff’s name is attached to the legal files. All other claimants are factored in; however, the lead representative serves as the legal “face” of the class action lawsuit itself.
The development of a single lead plaintiff means that whoever is assigned as the lead representative must keep the interests of all other claimants in mind when presenting themselves to the court.
Generally, this is a moot point as the representative is also aided by the personal injury attorney they have hired for the suit, meaning their law firm also carries the interests of the other claimants and themselves to ensure a successful claim.
Despite the increased amount of claimants, a class-action suit proceeds much the same as any other injury or medical malpractice lawsuit in the courts. On a basic level, it is just another instance of product liability litigation, except with more people involved than you would typically see.
Who Qualifies For a NuvaRing Settlement?
As with any legal settlement effort, the only way to successfully earn remuneration from a company that has wronged you is to be a victim of the initial issue.
In the case of the NuvaRing story, only women who had been prescribed the contraceptive before the addition of the “black box” warning were eligible to seek a settlement.
The effects of NuvaRing on the health of those who have made use of the product can be highly severe, meaning that the claims brought against NuvaRing’s manufacturers can seek substantial damages. However, there are limits on who might be qualified to seek such damages after the initial wave of lawsuits.
The women who qualified to join a class action lawsuit against NuvaRing’s manufacturers must have met at least some of the following conditions:
They purchased and used a NuvaRing contraceptive before the manufacturers implemented the “black box” label and
- They suffered a severe blood clot that led to injury or the development of a harmful condition.
- They developed deep-vein thrombosis due to blood clotting from the NuvaRing.
- They suffered a stroke due to blood clotting.
- They suffered a pulmonary embolism or heart attack due to blood clotting.
- The clotting from the NuvaRing’s use led to wrongful death, leading a direct family member to seek damages for their loved one.
The above qualifiers are based on the general information available regarding the NuvaRing situation. There can always be additional factors specific to certain plaintiffs. Still, such data should only be totally considered if received from a consultation with a personal injury lawyer or class action law firm.
How Much Are The NuvaRing Settlement Amounts?
The settlement amounts for the NuvaRing lawsuit plaintiffs can’t be estimated ahead of time. The problem with settlement and trial award payments is that there is no guaranteed amount, and the awarded amount will depend on the suffering of all the victims and the estimated cost of their medical expenses.
When you suffer a severe medical issue such as a clot or stroke, you will need immediate medical attention, which was more than likely something sought by most victims of the NuvaRing.
The cost of the medical bills they incurred seeking out treatment for the NuvaRing symptoms and personal damages are likely being factored into the general settlements.
In the case of the victims living in St. Louis, Missouri, the lawsuits were combined in an MDL (Federal Multidistrict Litigation) and decided together in federal court. District Judge Rodney Sippel approved a $100,000,000.00 settlement for the victims of NuvaRing against manufacturer Merck.
The judge approved the settlement in 2014, a mere two years after the first batch of NuvaRing lawsuits were filed, and it was a significant victory for the victims of the NuvaRing without a warning label.
It is important to note that injured victims should seek legal counsel with class-action lawsuits like the one filed against NuvaRing and not merely sign up. Because each state court system has differing laws surrounding claims, not every victim is subject to the same legal guidelines.
Closing Statements On NuvaRing Lawsuits
The NuvaRing case caused much pain and suffering and many deaths. The fact that hormonal contraceptives bring such a severe risk brings the validity of their existence into question.
Unfortunately, the FDA believes that such contraceptives are still a viable option and only resolved to enforce the “black box” label solution, and the pros outweigh the cons.
While most of the NuvaRing class-action claims are resolved, the entire situation can serve as a cautionary tale and lesson about the FDA and how it operates.
Fortunately, many of the early NuvaRing victims were able to recover some semblance of compensation for what the NuvaRing and Merck put them through.
However, that window of opportunity has now passed, and there is no way to file a new claim against Merck. All NuvaRing claims are closed, and almost all cases are settled.
Still, if you are preparing to enter into a different class-action lawsuit, you can quickly be overwhelmed. When lawsuits like the NuvaRing litigation are filed, life as we know it does not pause, and we are still expected to fulfill our regular financial obligations.
So even though you are not paying for the class action legal fees upfront, you still have to contend with sudden medical expenses and the increasing daily living costs. All the while, the lawsuit process does not make life any easier. Fortunately, a financial option can be made available to injured and damaged victims during the class action lawsuit settlement and trial process.
We at Express Legal Funding provide that financial service, known as pre-settlement funding. The process allows us, the pre-settlement funding company, to advance your funds on your class-action lawsuit proceeds.
That way, you can have money now when you need it and don’t have to worry about personally repaying us. The repayment comes from your future settlement or trial award and not your pocket. So if even if you lose your case in court, you still win because you get to keep the legal funding money we advanced to you.
So if you need money now and have a lawsuit like a NuvaRing claim or the similar, check out our website for the best pre-settlement funding resources online anytime, 24/7.
About the Author
Aaron Winston is the Strategy Director of Express Legal Funding. As "The Legal Funding Expert," Aaron has more than ten years of experience in the consumer finance industry. Most of which was as a consultant to a top financial advisory firm, managing 400+ million USD in client wealth. He is recognized as an expert author and researcher across multiple SEO industries.
Aaron Winston earned his title “The Legal Funding Expert” through authoritative articles and blog posts about legal funding. He specializes in expert content writing for pre-settlement funding and law firm blogs.
Each month, thousands of web visitors read his articles and posts. Aaron's thoroughly researched guides are among the most-read lawsuit funding articles over the past year.
As Strategy Director of Express Legal Funding, Aaron has devoted thousands of hours to advocating for the consumer. His "it factor" is that he is a tireless and inventive thought leader who has made great strides by conveying his legal knowledge and diverse expertise to the public. More clients and lawyers understand the facts about pre-settlement funding because of Aaron's legal and financial service SEO mastery.
Aaron Winston is the author of A Word For The Wise. A Warning For The Stupid. Canons of Conduct, which is a book in poetry format. It consists of 35 unique canons. The book was published in 2023.
He keeps an academic approach to business that improves the consumer's well-being. In early 2022, Aaron gained the Search Engine Optimization and the Google Ads LinkedIn skills assessment badges. He placed in the top 5% of those who took the SEO skills test assessment.
Aaron's company slogans and lawsuit funding company name are registered trademarks of the United States Patent and Trademark Office. He has gained positive notoriety via interviews and case studies, which are a byproduct of his successes. Aaron R Winston was featured in a smith.ai interview (2021) and a company growth case study (2022).