Header graphic for print
Dangerous Drugs & Medical Devices News & Commentary on Prescription Drug & Medical Device Lawsuits

Study Shows YAZ Places Users at Higher Risk of Hyperkalemia

Posted in Yaz, Yasmin & Ocella

A recent study published in the journal BioMedCentral Pharmacology aimed to evaluate potential health risks posed to users of hormonal contraceptives containing drospirenone, such as YAZ®.

In this report, titled “The association between drospirenone and hyperkalemia: a comparative-safety study” a team of researchers led by Dr. ST Bird studied 1,148,183 women, and found that users of drospirenone-containing contraceptives were about 10% more likely to develop hyperkalemia (a markedly-increased level of potassium in the blood) than were users of more traditional hormonal contraceptives, such as those containing levonorgestrel.[1]

For those of us less aware of hyperkalemia, Bird writes that “Hyperkalemia is a potentially serious condition … manifesting as weakness, flaccid paralysis, hypoventilation, and metabolic acidosis.  Hyperkalemia can also result in cardiac toxicity with electrocardiographic changes, which in severe cases may lead to the terminal events of ventricular fibrillation or asystole.”[2] (emphasis added)

Here is how MedlinePlus, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, and the National Institutes of Health, describes the ailments Dr. Bird writes can result from hyperkalemia:

Flaccid Paralysis: “paralysis in which muscle tone is lacking in the affected muscles and in which tendon reflexes are decreased or absent.”[3]

Hypoventilation: “deficient ventilation of the lungs that results in reduction in the oxygen content or an increase in carbon dioxide of the blood or both.”[4]  This is bad – all of your organs need oxygen to function.

Metabolic Acidosis: “Acidosis resulting from excess acid due to abnormal metabolism, excessive acid intake, or renal retention or from excessive loss of bicarbonate (as in diarrhea).”[5]

Acidosis: “An abnormal condition of reduced alkalinity of the blood and tissues that is marked by sickly sweet breath, headache, nausea and vomiting, and visual disturbances and is usually a result of excessive acid production.”[6]

Ventricular Fibrillation: “Very rapid uncoordinated fluttering contractions of the ventricles of the heart resulting in loss of synchronization between heartbeat and pulse beat.”[7]

Asystole: “A condition of weakening or cessation of systole.”[8]

Systole: “The contraction of the heart by which the blood is forced onward and the circulation kept up.”[9]

The Bird (et al.) results, though deemed not clinically significant due to the sample size, suggest danger of YAZ® use and ought to prompt further study on this subject.  A Yaz lawyer can use this article in a Yaz, Yazmin, or Ocella lawsuit to help provide evidence that YAZ® poses excessive and unjustified risk to its users.


[1] Bird, S.T., et al. (2011) “The association between drospirenone and hyperkalemia: a comparative-safety study” BMC Clinical Pharmacology 2011, 11:23; p. 1

[2] Bird, S.T., et al. (2011) “The association between drospirenone and hyperkalemia: a comparative-safety study” BMC Clinical Pharmacology 2011, 11:23; p. 2

[3] “Flaccid Paralysis” MedlinePlus.  U.S. National Library of Medicine.  National Institutes of Health.  Available at <http://www.merriam-webster.com/medlineplus/flaccid%20paralysis> Accessed 4 October 2012

[4] “Hypoventilation” MedlinePlus. U.S. National Library of Medicine.  National Institutes of Health.  Available at <http://www.merriam-webster.com/medlineplus/hypoventilation> Accessed 4 October 2012

[5] “Metabolic Acidosis” MedlinePlus.  U.S. National Library of Medicine.  National Institutes of Health.  Available at <http://www.merriam-webster.com/medlineplus/Metabolic%20Acidosis> Accessed 4 October 2012

[6] “Acidosis” MedlinePlus.  U.S. National Library of Medicine.  National Institutes of Health.  Available at <http://www.merriam-webster.com/medlineplus/acidosis> Accessed 4 October 2012

[7] “Ventricular Fibrillation” MedlinePlus.  U.S. National Library of Medicine.  National Institutes of Health.  Available at <http://www.merriam-webster.com/medlineplus/ventricular%20fibrillation> Accessed 4 October 2012

[8] “Asystole” MedlinePlus.  U.S. National Library of Medicine.  National Institutes of Health.  Available at <http://www.merriam-webster.com/medlineplus/asystole> Accessed 4 October 2012

[9] “Systole” MedlinePlus.  U.S. National Library of Medicine.  National Institutes of Health.  Available at <http://www.merriam-webster.com/medlineplus/systole> Accessed 4 October 2012

[10] Bird, S.T., et al. (2011) “The association between drospirenone and hyperkalemia: a comparative-safety study” BMC Clinical Pharmacology 2011, 11:23; p. 5