Birth control class action suit certified in B.C.

Pfizer and Wyeth face battle over oral contraceptive

Photo: Rob Kruyt

B.C. Supreme Court June 8 certified a class action suit against pharmaceutical giants Pfizer Canada and Wyeth Canada filed by two plaintiffs who claim they became pregnant while taking the Alesse oral contraceptive.

Taylor Janet MacKinnon and Alysa McIntosh assert there were manufacturing defects in the Alesse 21 or Alesse 28. They filed the class action suit on behalf of people who used the drugs between Jan. 1, 2017, and April 30, 2019.

Justice Karen Horsman said in her class certification ruling that the focus of the plaintiffs’ case is a December 2017 Health Canada advisory warning consumers that complaints had been received about undersized and broken pills in Alesse packages.

“Broken or smaller-than-normal birth control pills may deliver a smaller dose of the active drug ingredient, which could reduce its effectiveness in preventing pregnancy,” the advisory said.

The plaintiffs asserted testing of Alesse pills found normal sized pills sold during the class period contained a lower quantity of estrogen than Alesse’s product information suggested was necessary for the pills to be effective in preventing pregnancy.

The plaintiffs allege Pfizer and Wyeth negligently failed to take reasonable steps to ensure Alesse was safe and effective.

The defendants, however, said the plaintiffs have not established any of the requirements for certification.

The judge disagreed and defined the class as all persons resident in Canada who were prescribed and took Alesse 21 or Alesse 28 between Jan. 1, 2017, and April 30, 2019.

The allegations have yet to be tested in court. 

jhainsworth@glaciermedia.ca

@jhainswo