Yaz: Little Pill, Big Profit

Even though thousands of women have suffered severe injuries after taking Yaz and hundreds of lawsuits have already been filed, Bayer Pharmaceuticals is still airing commercials and running full page ads touting Yaz as the #1 most dispensed oral contraceptive in the U.S. with over 26 million prescriptions filled as of December 2009.

The number #1 most dispensed oral contraceptive in the U.S. – 26 million prescriptions – these things mean money, big money. The New York Times reported that the Yaz and Yasmin franchise had worldwide sales of about $1.8 billion in 2008. That same New York Times article has a graph showing the top-selling oral contraceptives between January and June 2009, which includes Yaz, Yasmin and Ocella in the top five. In fact, Bayer itself has a list of its top 20 best-selling products in 2009, and the Yaz and Yasmin products are number one on that list.

But Bayer wasn’t the only one to cash in on the success of these pills. Teva Pharmaceuticals who owns Barr Laboratories which distributes Ocella, the generic version of Yasmin, has made serious profits off this pill. In this press release, Teva said Ocella was launched in July 2008, and sales for that year were $170.2 million. Just this month Teva reported that its sales in North America for the fourth quarter had increased 35% compared with the fourth quarter of last year and that these sales benefited from the launch of the generic version of Yasmin.

So it seems like it’s a pretty simple equation for these pharmaceutical companies: little pill = big profit.

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