Erin Brockovich is back. Twenty years after leading a multimillion-dollar water contamination case against Pacific Gas & Electric, she has launched a new campaign against Essure, a popular form of birth control.
Essure is a form of permanent birth control that is marketed as a cheaper, easier alternative to having your tubes tied. Two small bendable metal coils are inserted inside the Fallopian tubes, and according to the Essure’s website, “over the next three months, your body will form a natural barrier around the Essure inserts,” preventing fertilization.
Now, women are coming forward to share their experiences with Essure, and many are saying the device has caused them severe medical problems.
“The pain was incredible,” one woman, Shelly Towndrow, told San Diego’s ABC affiliate 10News, which conducted an investigation of the implant’s potential side-effects. “It was like fire inside your body…It felt like cramps in child delivery for days, and days, and days.” She eventually had to undergo a hysterectomy.
Becky Beesley of Phoenix, Ariz., told 10News, “I had the Essure coils put in and immediately my body rejected the procedure. My leg started to tremor and I threw up a couple of times. “I felt like there were little gremlins…that were just trying to claw their way out.”
The pain was so bad, she said, she eventually had to quit her teaching job.
After Erin Brockovich heard some of the horror stories surrounding Essure, she launched an online campaign and petition to call attention to the potential side effects with the implant, and to provide a place for women to share their stories.
“There’s something wrong with the device, in my opinion,” she told ABCNews.com. “It’s a form of permanent birth control, and women’s organs are being perforated…It’s ridiculous that at any level we try to defend this. If 30 women did suffer harm for unknown reasons, we’d investigate. We have thousands injured. I don’t think it’s safe.”
The Food and Drug Administration approved Essure in 2002, and since 2004, there have been 838 ‘Adverse Events’ complaints filed against the procedure. According to 10News, there have been 150 cases in which the coils “broke or misfired,” and 91 women reported having to undergo hysterectomies to remove the device. Also, 80 women became pregnant while using the device, despite claims that it’s an irreversible birth control method.
Bayer, which owns the company that produces Essure, said in a statement to 10News,
“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, irrespective 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.”
Brockovich is calling for Bayer to take Essure of the market, and is encouraging women who have experienced medical complications following the Essure procedure to share their stories.
There is also a private Facebook group where women can share their experiences with the implant. “With the help and support of Erin Brockovich…we are determined to fix this,” the group’s description reads. Currently, the group has nearly 2,700 members.