The relatives of a woman who died in Toronto after taking Yasmin birth control pills have launched the first individual civil lawsuit against the drug manufacturer in Canada.

Vicky Caprice Mersereau, 26, died in 2009 of a large pulmonary embolism after she ingested Yasmin, the legal firm Siskinds LLP said in a statement to CBC News.

Yasmin, which is made by Bayer Inc., is one of Canada's top-selling birth control pills. It is a so-called "fourth generation" hormonal contraceptive and is considered "low dose."

The announcement of the suit, launched Friday in London, Ont., comes ahead of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's public hearings on the oral contraceptive scheduled for Dec. 8 in Maryland.

The FDA's reproductive health and drug safety committee will be looking at the safety of Yasmin and its unique progestin, drospirenone.

Last month, the FDA warned that oral contraceptives containing the hormone drospirenone, and sold in Canada under the name Yasmin (or its sister pill Yaz), increase the risk of blood clots by 74 per cent, compared with older pills on the market.

Health issues that have been linked to the use of Yasmin and Yaz include:

  • Stroke.
  • Deep vein thrombosis.
  • Pulmonary embolism.
  • Heart attack.
  • Gall bladder disease.

More than 10,400 individual lawsuits related to the two pills have been filed in the U.S.

In May, Health Canada announced a safety review of Yasmin and Yaz.

In a CBC Marketplace investigation earlier this year, Bayer said its product was no riskier than any other oral contraceptive on the market.

On March 10, 2010, Siskinds filed a class-action lawsuit against Bayer with respect to the use of Yasmin or Yaz in Canada. According to the law firm's website, the statement of claim alleges that Bayer failed to adequately warn patients and physicians of the increased risk of health disease associated with the use of Yasmin and Yaz compared to safer oral contraceptives. The certification hearing for that suit is scheduled to begin Jan. 28, 2013.

With files from CBC's Andreas Wesley