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The findings of a new study suggest that the use of the Mirena birth control and other intrauterine devices (IUD) could trigger crippling joint problems in women.
In findings presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Rheumatology, researchers from the University of Colorado School of Medicine indicate that women may face more than a doubled risk of developing rheumatoid arthritis if they use the birth control implants, which have become increasingly popular in recent years as a way to provide long-term protection against pregnancy.
Intrauterine devices (IUD) are T-shaped plastic implants designed to be placed in the uterus to provide a “hassle-free” form of birth control, avoiding the need to remember to take a daily pill. Also referred to as an interauterine system (IUS), the most widely used forms of the birth control are marketed under the brand names Mirena, which releases the progrestin levonorgestrel, and Paragard, which contains copper wire coils around the plastic frame.
Looking at data on nearly 1,000 women, the researchers in this new study looked at side effects of various different birth control methods, evaluating impact of the birth control on blood levels of antibodies that scientists have linked to the development of rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Known as antibodies to citrullinated protein antigens (ACPA), elevated levels can indicate someone will develop RA in the future.
The study found that side effects of IUD birth control were associated with a 268% increased chance of developing rheumatoid arthritis later in life, while those who took daily birth control pills actually had a reduced risk, compared to women who used no contraception at all.
IUD birth control has become a more popular alternative in recent years, as a number of different groups have recommended the implant for younger girls who may be at risk of failing to adhere to use of a daily birth control pill.
According to a recent report by the Guttmacher Institute, use of IUDs has increased from only 2.4% of women in the U.S. in 2002, to 8.5% by 2009. Planned Parenthood has also reported a 75% increase in IUD risks from 2008 to 2012.
The findings about the potential link between IUD birth control and rheumatoid arthritis come amid increasing concerns over potential problems with Mirena IUD birth control in particular, which has been linked to reports of the implant perforating the uterus and migrating to other areas of the body, potentially causing infections and other complications requiring surgical removal.
Since 2000, more than 70,000 adverse events have been filed with the FDA involving Mirena IUD complications, including at least 5,000 cases involving women who indicated that Mirena moved out of place since 2008, and 1,322 reports where the Mirena IUD punctured the uterus.
There are currently more than 2,000 Mirena IUD injury lawsuits pending against Bayer Healthcare in state and federal courts nationwide, which all allege that the drug maker knew or should have known about the risk of spontaneous perforations, which can happen months or even years after the implant is put in place and confirmed to be in the proper position.
The first federal Mirena bellwether trials involving the migration injuries are expected to begin in March 2016.