Diane 35 and thrombosis risk – Zembla broadcast

The oral contraceptive pill ‘Diane 35- was’ in the news again. I wrote about the diane-35 pill on this website before, even twice,  when there was a broadcast of the radio show Argos.

The first time I wrote:

[…] this is a bit strange: there is nothing new about the information that third and fourth generation oral contraceptives have an increased risk of thrombosis compared to the risk conveyed by second generation oral contraceptives. Because the desired effects of the older and newer generation pills are similar (not getting pregnant, preventing or curing acne) there is limited, if any, reason to prescribe the newest and more expensive pills. See also the recent comment by Helmerhorst and Rosendaal in the BMJ. However, still 160.000+ (Diane 35) 500.000 (third generation) women take these newer pills. […]

Those words also fit the broadcast of the TV show Zembla last week. Zembla has a reputation to be ‘activist reporters’ and some of the broadcast is not to my taste. It is however good to see that Zembla tried to figure out how it is possible that Diane-35, which is not registered as an anti-conception pill, still gets prescribed as such. However, the broadcast leaves me unsatisfied for it does not provide answers, or even get to talk to everybody they wanted to? (Why did they reporters did not proceed to work on their WOB? a missed change!)

As in the previous two blog posts on this topic, I feel like these story are important but they also need to have the proper amount of nuance. Therefore, also this time I conclude with saying that the absolute risk of thrombosis in young women (both venous and arterial) is very low, even when using oral contraceptives. But all unnecessary risk without any benefit that can be avoided should be avoided. As always, consult your GP if you have any questions.

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Diane 35 and thrombosis risk – Argos broadcast part II

Last week I wrote a post after hearing the radio broadcast of Argos. They concluded that broadcast with the promise to discuss how it is possibe that a more expensive, just as effective medicine which has more side effects still can be prescribed (in large numbers) in the Netherlands.

So I’ve listen with great interest the second part of the story, which can be heard on the Argos website. They journalists did a good job by covering all sides of the story , and they provide insight in the differences between ‘advertisement’ and ‘providing information’. What if information that is provided is only one sided? Does that count as advertisement? and if you want to play a nice game during the broadcast, ‘spot the logical fallacy’ is good suggestion… Gems!

In case you are wondering: the absolute risk of thrombosis in young women is low, even when using oral contraceptives. But I still believe that all unnecessary added risk without any benefit that can be avoided should be avoided by you in dialogue with your GP!

Diane 35 and thrombosis risk – Argos broadcast

The oral contraceptive pill – especially the Diane 35- was in the news again. However, this is a bit strange: there is nothing new about the information that third and fourth generation oral contraceptives have an increased risk of thrombosis compared to the risk conveyed by second generation oral contraceptives. Because the desired effects of the older and newer generation pills are similar (not getting pregnant, preventing or curing acne) there is limited, if any, reason to prescribe the newest and more expensive pills. See also the recent comment by Helmerhorst and Rosendaal in the BMJ. However, still 160.000+ (Diane 35) 500.000 (third generation) women take these newer pills. Since thrombosis risk might be highest in the first few months, it is unclear whether these women all should switch to the safer second generation oral contraceptives. But for women who get their first prescription, a second generation oral contraceptive the best way to go (also according the Dutch GP guidelines).

A lot of the research on this topic has been executed by my colleagues from both the MEGA study and the RATIO study. Want to learn more about the pill controversy, please listen this episode of Argos, a Dutch radio programme.

In case you are wondering: the absolute risk of thrombosis in young women is low, even when using a newer generation oral contraceptives. But all added risk that can be avoided should be avoided by you in dialogue with your GP!

Ben Goldacres ‘Bad Pharma’ and research from the LUMC

Ben Goldacre, known from the bestseller Bad Science (book and blog) has a new book, Bad Pharma. Goldacre is always fun to read: science, both the method as the social phenomenon, explained for non-scientist while still interesting for scientist. The same goes for his new title Bad Pharma, where he explains what is right and wrong in the field of clinical trials needed to determine what treatment is best given. Before I am going to review the complete book, perhaps this TED talk will explain it all:

Basically, his point is that for good answers to questions on what treatment is best to save lives, it is pivotal that all the results of all trials are published. This sounds a bit old, since there are databases in which trials should be registered. However, only registering the existence of a trial is not enough: all data should become known to the public. This sounds familiar: this standpoint is off course the same standpoint of the AllTrials.net petition, which is initiated by a.o. Ben Goldacre. For more on AllTrials.net, please see a previous post.

While reading the book of Goldacre it started reading about reasearch done in the Netherlands, where 250 students were looking into the adverts for medication: they checked their quality (was the science OK?) and correct use (does it support the claim?) of the trials in major journals and found that half was of good quality and only half supported the claim. And the nice thing about this research? It was executed at our department as part of one of our  undergraduate courses! All students scored trials and a couple of students were also engaged in the analyses/writing/submission process. The paper from this research, cited by Goldacre, is available from the website of the Netherlands Journal of Medicine.  (pdf, open access) An earlier paper with the same concept but focussed on rheumatoid arthritis medication is also published, also open acces. (pdf)