Victoria woman claims she became pregnant before being warned about recalled birth control pills

Taylor MacKinnon says she never imagined she'd be pregnant at 23 years old.  She says she has always wanted children but assumed that would come when her and her partner were ready and settled in their careers.

Instead, she says she's found herself with an unplanned pregnancy and the Victoria woman is blaming one of the country's largest pharmaceutical companies. Pfizer Canada manufactures Alesse, which was MacKinnon's birth control of choice for four years.

"Becoming pregnant while taking Alesse has impacted my life and my partner's life, as I am now less than a year out of school with a large student loan, and he is only just completing university this spring," said MacKinnon.

On Dec.1, 2017, Health Canada issued a recall on Alesse 21 and Alesse 28 birth control pills. It said certain affected packages may contain broken or smaller than normal pills which could reduce the effectiveness.

Wyeth Pharmaceuticals temporarily stopped production of Alesse and Triphasil birth control pills.

The notice of civil claim says MacKinnon refilled her prescription in October and got a call from her pharmacy after the recall notice was issued.  About a week and a half later, she discovered she was pregnant and that it happened near the end of November.

"It is just kind of scary, I might have not taken those pills had I known sooner," said MacKinnon.

Lawsuit claims negligence

The proposed lawsuit, filed by Rice Harbut Elliott LLP, claims Pfizer Canada was negligent and fell short of ensuring Alesse 21 and Alesse 28 were manufactured to product standards. It also accuses the company of failing to implement a timely recall once the risks of its reduced effectiveness were known to them.

"Birth control affords women reproductive independence and security over their own body. Women relied on Pfizer to deliver birth control to them, that they paid for, that wasn't effective," said John Rice, one of the lawyers representing MacKinnon.

None of the allegations has been proven in court and the proposed lawsuit still needs to be certified as a class action by a judge. MacKinnon is seeking damages, including loss of both past and prospective income, cost of future care and medical and out-of-pocket expenses.

This photo of the Alesse 28 blister pack shows a broken pill, circled in red. (Health Canada)

If the lawsuit is certified as a class action, Rice Harbut Elliott LLP believes there will be others in Canada who would join it.

In the meantime, MacKinnon and her partner have chosen to keep their child. They say despite the challenges the decision may pose financially, the pair is looking forward to welcoming their new baby girl in August.

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