BCP create the illusion of having a normal menstrual cycle because a period of bleeding is built in to most of them. BCP does not ease menstrual cramps; it eliminates the cause of menstrual cramps. Similarly, it does not make a woman regular; it replaces her irregular menstrual period with a completely different artificial cycle.
It seems like your friend with irregular cycles could look into some of the methods suggested in The Art of NFP like nutrition, night lights, and other approaches to try to regulate her normal cycle instead of replacing it with another. If all else fails, perhaps it’s worth looking into a different sort of hormone replacement therapy. My guess is that this is probably available but it is just easier for drs to suggest BCP.
For the cramps, I’d be concerned that there could be an underlying issue like uterine fibroids or some other problem causing the cramping to be out of control. Some women find that when they come off the pill the cramps aren’t as bad as they were before. This was certainly the case for my roommate. Exercise and prescription pain medications should be able to get the pain down to a managable level. The nurse at the plant where I worked had an OTC product that I call pink gold. In addition to ibuprofen and caffiene, it has a smooth muscle relaxer that make all my cramping disappear. I haven’t found anywhere to get this OTC, but I’m sure her dr could prescribe something.
That being said, the women have to want to get off BCP and be willing to accept the behavioral changes that accompany going off BCP yet not getting pregnant.