Depo-Provera Birth Control and Osteoporosis

June 27 2005

Depo Provera is a contraceptive administered by Depo Provera injection. Since 2005, the FDA has warned of Depo Provera side effects; consequently Depo Provera lawsuits have been filed, including a class action in Toronto, alleging Depo shot side effects include Depo Provera bone loss and Depo Provera osteoporosis.

Depo-Provera Birth Control and Osteoporosis

Depo-provera-injectionManufactured by Pfizer, Depo-Provera (medroxyprogesterone acetate suspension for injection) is a powerful contraceptive or birth-control medication that is administered by injection four times a year, rather than the more common daily oral birth control pill.

Depo Provera injection, or 'depo shot', has remained popular among women because of its higher pregnancy prevention rate and its convenience. According to Pfizer's website, Depo injection is effective in ending pregnancies more than 99 percent of the time, and it is marketed as a "hassle and worry free" birth control method, saving women from daily pill popping.

Depo-Provera contains a powerful variant of the hormone progestosterone which is released through a hypodermic shot every few months. This hormone has been shown to increase the loss of bone density in women of all ages, including teen and young adult women who are in critical stages of natural bone growth. Concerns that the drug causes massive and partially irreversible bone loss in young women have led to a number of lawsuits in the US and three lawsuits in Canada.

Since its launch, many studies have been conducted on Depo-Provera, its side effects and effectiveness. A study published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine documents bone loss or Osteoporosis in women while they were taking Depo-Provera. Other back-up studies claim that the bone loss may be reversible in younger women while some studies say the bone loss is permanent.

Osteoporosis and the loss of bone density typically affect women later in life, making them susceptible to fractures throughout the skeletal system, but men of all ages and young women are also prone to osteoporosis. Depo-Provera Contraceptive Injection may cause women of all ages to lose calcium stored in bones and the longer Depo-Provera is taken, the more calcium is likely to be lost.

Depo Provera Side Effects

Depo-provera side effects can include:
  • Loss of BMD (bone mineral density) that could lead to the onset of osteoporosis, low bone density, and other osteo-related diseases

  • Menstrual irregularities such as bleeding and spotting

  • Amenorrhea or not having any periods. ( After a year of Depo Provera injections, 57 percent of women are not menstruating; after two years of taking Depo shots, 68 percent of women are not menstruating.)

  • Spotty darkening of the skin, usually around or on the face, which may be permanent

  • Weight gain due to increased appetite

  • Pregnancy-like symptoms include sore breasts, nausea, fatigue, and abdominal discomfort.
Other Depo shot side effects include excessive weight gain, hair loss, headaches, muscle stiffness, and severe joint pain. The long-term effects on bone density and women's bodies are still unknown.

Depo-Provera Timeline

1990: Women's health activists in New Zealand raise concerns about the potential loss of bone density in young women taking Depo Provera.

1991: Canadian Coalition on Depo-Provera, a coalition of women's health professional and advocacy groups, opposes the approval of Depo in Canada.

1992: FDA approves Depo-Provera, which has already been used by over 30 million women since 1969.

1995: Several women's health groups ask the FDA to put a moratorium on Depo-Provera, and to institute standardized informed consent forms.

2002: Pfizer promises results of post-marketing studies.

November 2004: Pfizer shows in post-marketing studies permanent bone mineral density (BMD) loss.

(As a result of post-marketing studies, conducted separately with adults and with adolescents, it appears that Pfizer knew of clinical bone density test data regarding the use of Depo Provera Contraceptive Injection and its associated effect on bone mineral density (BMD) before issuing a black box warning.)

FDA issues an order whereby all Depo-Provera packaging and promotional materials must contain a "black box" warning which reads:
    "Use of Depo-subQ Provera 104 or Depo Provera may cause you to lose calcium stored in your bones. The longer you use Depo Provera, the more calcium you are likely to lose. The calcium may not return completely once you stop using Depo Provera. Loss of calcium may cause weak bones that could increase the risk that your bones might break, especially after menopause. It is not known whether your risk of developing osteoporosis may be greater if you are a teenager when you start to use Depo Provera. You should only use Depo Provera long term (more than 2 years) if other methods of birth control are not right for you".
December 2005: A $700-million class-action lawsuit is filed against Pfizer, the Depo-Provera maker, in Toronto. The lawsuit claims that long-term users of Depo Provera have been diagnosed with serious bone density problems including but not limited to osteoporosis, fractures, brittle teeth, spine injuries, and hip injuries.

The Depo-Provera lawsuit also alleges that Pfizer failed to forewarn doctors and patients of the serious bone density risks associated with long-term use of the drug and had originally promoted the injection as a safe contraceptive method for long-term use.

Pfizer Canada said it plans to vigorously defend the Depo-Provera class action lawsuit filed in Ontario Superior Court.

Late 2005: Pfizer reports a net income of $2.732 billion. Depo Provera has now been used worldwide for almost 25 years and in the United States for 13 years.

2010: Pfizer settles several class action suits regarding Depo Provera, and individual claims against the company are still an option.

Pfizer, the manufacturer of Depo-Provera continues to actively promote this birth control method to women of all ages, and is very popular among younger women. Despite the FDA warnings and reports of bone loss, millions of doses are prescribed every year. (Between 1994-2000, USAID sent over 40 million units of depo-provera to birth control programs in the developing world, mostly to Africa).

If you are currently taking Depo-Provera, you might want to discuss a bone density test with your physician or health professional. If you have suffered any Depo Provera side effects, you should contact your doctor and have him or her file an adverse reaction report with the FDA. Next, it is advisable that you seek legal help--sooner than later, and do not contact Pfizer.

Depo-Provera Osteoporosis Legal Help

If you are taking or have taken Depo-Provera birth control and subsequently suffered a loss of bone density, been diagnosed with Osteoporosis, or suffered a bone fracture, you may qualify for damages or remedies that may be awarded in a possible class action lawsuit. Please fill in the form to the right to submit your complaint and we will have a lawyer review your Depo-Provera complaint.
Last updated February 13 2011