According to CNN, the multinational pharmaceutical company Bayer paid American doctors millions of dollars to promote Essure, a potentially harmful birth control device.
One woman, in particular, experienced the harmful effects of the questionable birth control device. After her doctor urged her to use Essure to prevent pregnancy, Christina Potts began to experience extreme pain. Essure, a spring-like device, was implanted in her fallopian tubes. In order to eventually get rid of the device, Potts was required to undergo a hysterectomy and have her fallopian tubes tied. Potts says she is still uncertain if her doctor promoted the device because it worked well or because she was simply being paid off.
According to a federal data analysis, Bayer paid $2.5 million dollars to approximately 11,850 doctors within the span of four years, from August 2013 to July 2017. Potts’ doctor in particular, Cindy Basinski, was paid $168,068 over the same time period. Basinski insists that she believes the device is safe and effective and was in no way influenced by the money, adding that she will continue to recommend it to her patients.
While Bayer announced last week that they will be pulling the device off the market by the end of the year because it hasn’t been selling well, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration expressed serious health and safety concerns about, noting that Essure has caused “serious risks including persistent pain, perforation of the uterus and fallopian tubes, and migration of the coils into the pelvis or abdomen.”
Coincidentally, a new documentary just premiered on Netflix called The Bleeding Edge, which details the experiences and accounts of women who have been seriously harmed by the birth control device. According to their Facebook group, Essure Problems, more than 12,000 women have had hysterectomies or other procedures in order to have the device removed.
Potts recalls that, at the time, Dr. Basinski acted like a “cheerleader” for the device, and successfully convinced the 27-year-old that Essure was much more safe and effective than having her tubes tied. Potts says now that she’s angry Basinski misled her and took her options away.
“I felt like it was Dr. Basinski’s decision, more or less, because she said that this was best, and I wasn’t really given another option,” Potts said.
Johns Hopkins Medicine professor of surgery, Dr. Martin Markary, noted that, while it’s not illegal or technically unethical for pharmaceutical companies to pay doctors for their research, Bayer was paying doctors to simply promote and recommend the device. “That looks like a bribe,” Makary said. “That looks like gaming the system. That looks like the pharma company is paying off doctors.”