Hormonal contraception has provided safe, reliable birth control for fifty years. Originating as "The Pill," hormonal contraception is now available in a variety delivery methods including the Ortho Evra birth control patch. The Patch has been popular since it came on the market in 2002 for convenience, reliability and user-friendliness. It has also been controversial because studies link the patch with serious health risks.  Now, there are new worries that Johnson & Johnson (the patch manufacturer) knew about these dangers long before the public did.

Birth control patches deliver a continuous dose of estrogen and progesterone directly through the skin.  This suppresses ovulation and prevents pregnancy. Patients stick the patch on their hip, buttocks, or abdomen and remove it three weeks later. After a one-week break during which they have a period, they put on another patch and they're good to go. It's discreet and eliminates the risk of forgetting a dose, which is common with The Pill.

Problems cropped up, however, right from the beginning when experts noticed more women experiencing serious side effects when using the Patch than the Pill.  All hormonal contraception increases risks for developing blood clots but it appeared risk were significantly higher with the Patch.  Blood clots can lead to strokes, which can be deadly.  

Patient reports between 2002 and 2004 showed that Ortho Evra was 12 times more likely to cause strokes and 18 times more likely to cause blood clots than the Pill.  Recent news reports speculate that Johnson & Johnson knew about these risks but kept reports quiet.  Current estimates are that more than 2400 women have filed lawsuits claiming Ortho Evra damaged their health.  More than two-dozen women have died from blood clots. 

Why does the patch cause these problems?  Experts believe it's because the patch delivers 60 percent more estrogen than the Pill.  Unlike the pill where hormones are swallowed and delivered to the blood stream after digestion, the patch absorbs hormones directly into the bloodstream and delivers a continuous dose. 

After conclusive studies, The Food and Drug Administration modified prescribing information for Ortho Evra to include results that Patch users had higher risks for developing serious blood clots than Pill users.  Johnson and Johnson changed their packaging in 2006 to include warnings that the Patch posed twice the risk of blood clots as the Pill. 

Doctors, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Planned Parenthood, and The Food and Drug Administration stand behind the Ortho Evra birth control patch as a safe, reliable and effective birth control method for low risk women.  Some women, however, should not use the Patch.  This includes women who:

  • Smoke
  • Have high blood pressure
  • Are 35 or older
  • Are prescribed prolonged bed rest
  • Are pregnant

Or women who have:

  • Migraines with auras
  • Certain inherited blood-clotting disorders
  • History of blood clots or vein inflammation
  • History of breast or liver cancer
  • History of heart attack,stroke, or angina
  • Serious heart valve problems
  • Lupus with certain conditions
  • Serious liver disease
  • Uncontrolled high blood pressure
  • Very bad diabetes

If the birth control Patch is not right for you, there are many other safe and simple birth control methods available.  See your doctor and find out which one is the best choice for you.




Planned Parenthood

Birth Control Patch



PubMed Health

Ethinyl Estradiol and Norelgestromin Transdermal

National Institutes of Health