FDA expands Essure’s postmarketing surveillance study


The Food and Drug Administration has ordered Bayer to expand a postmarketing surveillance study of its implantable contraceptive device Essure, despite its imminent disappearance from the U.S. market on December 31.

Courtesy Bayer


The study, ordered in 2016, will now run 5 years instead of 3, and the cohort will be enlarged to add any women who elect implantation while the device is still on the market, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb, MD, announced in a press statement. The agency also added a key biological measure: All patients with Essure will undergo regular blood work to evaluate proinflammatory markers that could be device related.

“We’re requiring additional blood testing of patients enrolled in follow-up visits during the study to learn more about patients’ levels of certain inflammatory markers that can be indicators of increased inflammation,” Dr. Gottlieb said. “This could help us better evaluate potential immune reactions to the device and whether these findings are associated with symptoms that patients have reported related to Essure.”

The device has been associated with severe problems in some patients, he noted.

“I personally had the opportunity to meet with women who have been adversely affected by Essure to listen and learn about their concerns. Some of the women I spoke with developed significant medical problems that they ascribe to their use of the product. We remain committed to these women and to improving how we monitor the safety of medical devices, including those related to women’s health.”

The study expansion comes as Bayer is facing more than 16,000 lawsuits over adverse events associated with Essure implantation.

Since its approval, Essure is estimated to have been used by more than 750,000 patients worldwide. Bayer claims the device is 99% effective in preventing pregnancy, but it’s also been associated with some serious risks, including persistent pain, perforation of the uterus and fallopian tubes, and migration of the coils into the pelvis or abdomen. In view of these – and more than 15,000 adverse events reported to the FDA – the agency announced new restrictions on Essure earlier this year. Those restrictions, plus a prior boxed warning on the label, contributed to about a 70% decline in U.S. sales, which Bayer says prompted the discontinuation.

The open-label prospective observational study will compare women who have the Essure device to a matched cohort that underwent laparoscopic tubal ligation. The main safety endpoints are chronic pelvic pain and abnormal uterine bleeding, as well as the new measure of inflammatory markers. As of Dec. 3, 791 patients have been enrolled (293 in the Essure arm and 498 in the laparoscopic tubal ligation arm).

Women who have the implant now and remain free of any adverse events should probably keep the device, Dr. Gottlieb advised.

“We believe women who’ve been using Essure successfully to prevent pregnancy can and should continue to do so. Women who suspect the device may be related to symptoms they are experiencing, such as persistent pain, should talk to their doctor on what steps may be appropriate. Device removal has its own risks. Patients should discuss the benefits and risks of any procedure with their health care providers before deciding on the best option for them.”


Next Article: