Depo-Provera: When Your Bones Are Older Than You…

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Washington, DCTaking an injection four times per year v. having to remember to take a pill daily for three weeks out of four may have seemed like just the ticket for some women. However, the fallout from Depo-Provera has, for some, proved frustrating with lasting adverse effects.

The most troublesome and serious side effect has been identified as loss of calcium, which has an adverse effect on bone mass. To that end, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a black box warning in late 2004 identifying the calcium loss concern, noting that calcium may not completely return once Depo-Provera is stopped.

That's serious enough for an adult whose bones have developed, and for whom early emergence of osteoporosis symptoms may result. But what of a young person, whose skeletal structure is still developing?

One Depo-Provera client who posted to a health blog in 2009 did not provide her age, but is obviously younger than the 70-year-old woman that she claims to mimic in terms of the impact Depo-Provera had on her bones. Amanita thought Depo-Provera as the best response to her heavy menstrual cycles.

"[The outlay of] 40$ every few months for a birth control that made me lose weight and stop bleeding, what could be better? Too bad," she writes, "the fact that I am thousands of dollars in medical debt and can't have a job to pay it back because I'm in too much pain doesn't help. I've had depression and insamnia [sic] for as long as I can remember and I am the same way, a lot worse from the shot. My back is ruined; I walk like a 70 yr old person. I used to ride horses, swim, dance. Now I can't even play with my dog on the floor."

Amanita's description sounds similar to that of Tracey Bourque, who was 33 when she discovered to her dismay that she had the bone density of a 55-year-old woman after using Depo-Provera. Bourque was identified in a CTV (Canada) news report regarding Depo-Provera and a class-action lawsuit launched in Canada in 2005. Depo-Provera, which uses a synthetic version of progestosterone but does not contain estrogen, was approved in Canada in 1997.

Its approval in the US, five years prior to the Health Canada approval, was somewhat rocky. The original manufacturer of Depo-Provera, Upjohn, applied repeatedly for FDA approval and won the support of an FDA advisory committee and the FDA's professional medical staff in 1973, 1975, and again in 1992. The FDA, however, refused to formally approve the drug until late October 1992. Since that time, various studies have raised red flags with regard to the injectable Depo-Provera—administered quarterly—prompting the black box warning two days prior to Halloween in 2004. The Canadian class-action lawsuit was filed some months later.

And there have been other associations between Depo-Provera and health effects. One blogger told of her experience with her 15-year-old daughter, after giving her daughter permission to have the Depo-Provera shot. The girl was soon doubled over with abdominal cramping and had to be rushed to the hospital, where doctors diagnosed Pelvic Inflammatory Disease. Cause was thought to be, according to the girl's mother, the Depo-Provera shot. "She might need her ovary removed," the woman writes. "That in [sic] not something doctors like to do with girls her age."

Bourque, the Canadian woman whose bones were found to be 22 years older than she was, didn't learn about the initial advisory from manufacturer Pfizer (followed by subsequent advisories from the FDA and Health Canada) until two months after stopping her Depo-Provera injections.

"I'm angry and confused," she told CTV at the time. "What is my future now?"

Depo Provera Legal Help

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Reader Comments

Posted by

I did the depo for the first time when I was 30 years old. I did 3 doses and stopped, because I just wouldn't stop bleeding or spotting. I am now 50 and decided to do it again because I remembered it put weight on me practically overnight. Prior to my visit with the ob/gyn I had a full physical (3/27/17)and gyn also gave me full exam (4/5/17). GYN said just need to watch my calcium levels because of age but doubted any problems because of my test results. First shot was 4/13. I had bone density test on 4/26. GYN called me 5/11 to come in ASAP (appt., tomorrow) and believes my BD results may have been affected because of the shot. She also said no more shots to which I responded I had no plans on it. No change in my weight and my energy level has dropped dramatically, and I am now having a difficult time falling asleep and getting out of bed. None of these problems existed before the shot. Maybe it is because of my age, but can say it gave me a problem the first time (constant bleeding) and this time around it's worse.

Posted by

I want to run again! what do we have to do to end this happening to more women?! I see years of complaints. but no answers. I am NOT satisfied with just telling part of my story. I want results! pull this drug so no more women suffer unneedingly. I want to know where the class action is what is happening with it, When will this be resolved! How can I be treated so I can run or jump ride a bike, keep up with others when walking. I want to live PAIN FREE again!!! NOW without sideffects ruining my life!!

Posted by

Depo-Medrol, kenelog (corticosteriods)
I have been getting shot up with these meds for years, not knowing any side affects to them.For foot and back pain. I have many things that could not be explained, until now. I have had short term effects as hallucinations. Many others as depression, and insommnia.I have had severe mental and mood changes, in where I have lost a few friends, and unexplained nausea and vomiting with yearly scopes, not finding reasons. I have long tern effects, abdominal distention, I look like a 57 year old pregnant woman, bowel and bladder problems, terrible increased appitite! And a hairy big round face, oh, and the buffalo hump on the beack of my neck!

Posted by

This comment is about another 'steroid' which is wildly popular with orthopedic surgeons, neurosurgeons, and pain management doctors. This drug is Depo Medrol. It is being used OFF LABEL in epidural injections to treat back pain, even though the benefits are generally temporary. The doctors WILL NOT tell you the name of this drug prior to the procedure. This drug is clearly off label and contraindicated for this use. As a result of this procedure I now have avascular necrosis (dead bones) in both hips as well as in the knee area of one of my legs, along with some other unpleasant side effects. I had a consult with (another) orthopedic surgeon yesterday, who was actually aggetated that I knew the name of the drug that was used.

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