When a mother takes acetaminophen while pregnant, it could increase the child’s risk of developing attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). A recent study has uncovered links between this common medication and these developmental disabilities. Additional studies will likely occur over the next several years.
Some families are already pursuing legal action against the drug companies for failure to warn of this concern. If you believe your child was affected, you can talk to a mass torts attorney near you today for free.
How do We Know There Is a Link Between Autism, ADHD, and Acetaminophen?
A recent study published in JAMA Psychiatry showed a strong enough indication of a possible link that the authors recommend exploring the connection further. This study was conducted by researchers at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore. It was funded, in part, by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality.
This was not the first study to link acetaminophen exposure in the womb with ADHD and autism spectrum disorders. However, it confirmed these earlier findings using a much larger observational study. The authors recommend additional research into the topic.
Other scientists believe it is time to take action. More than 90 scientists, clinicians, and public health experts co-signed a consensus statement published in Nature Reviews Endocrinology urging precautionary action. They want to greatly increase the public’s awareness of these possible risks and ensure additional research occurs quickly.
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How a Study Linked Acetaminophen Exposure in the Womb to ADHD, ASD
In the Johns Hopkins study, researchers used data gathered through the Boston Birth Cohort. This is a long-term study that, among other things, allows researchers access to umbilical cord blood from many babies over time. This study measured the amount of acetaminophen and several byproducts in this blood. In all, blood from 996 babies was analyzed.
Then, they followed up to see whether these children had developed attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and/or autism spectrum disorder. At an average age of 9.8 years:
- 25.8 percent had an ADHD diagnosis
- 6.6 percent had an autism spectrum disorder diagnosis
- 4.2 percent were diagnosed with both ADHD and ASD
They considered how much acetaminophen and its byproducts were found in each sample and found that those who had the most acetaminophen exposure were more likely to develop ADHD and ASD. The increased risk among those with the highest levels of exposure was about 2.86 times for ADHD and 3.62 times for autism spectrum disorders.
What do I Need to Know About This Medication and These Conditions?
It is important for parents and others with concerns to understand what this medication is and the effect it could have on a child.
What Is Acetaminophen?
Acetaminophen is the generic name for Tylenol. It is one of the most commonly used over-the-counter medications available today. This pain reliever comes in many strengths and formulas, including gel caps, caplets, liquids, and more. It is generally used to manage mild or moderate pain.
It is not unusual for someone to reach for acetaminophen for a headache, backache, muscle soreness, toothache, and other pain. Many of these are common during pregnancy.
What Is Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder?
Attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), formerly known as “ADD,” is a developmental disability that makes it difficult for children and adults to focus their attention. The primary symptoms are usually hyperactivity and impulsive behavior.
What Is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) is a developmental disorder that can make it difficult for an individual to interact with others in what many consider to be a “normal” way. Some people with ASD might not speak or make eye contact. They may have average or above-average intelligence, but ASD can affect how they learn. Many people with ASD require special accommodations in the classroom, recreational activities, or the workplace.
Are There Acetaminophen Lawsuits Underway Related to ADHD and ASD?
While there is not yet a mass tort underway related to the link between autism, ADHD, and acetaminophen exposure in the womb, that could be the next step. As of November 2023, there are more than 100 pending lawsuits from families. They are suing both Tylenol’s manufacturer, Johnson & Johnson, and major retailers who produce their own acetaminophen products.
These lawsuits claim that these companies knew about possible links between the medication and neurodevelopmental concerns in babies when pregnant mothers took it. They believe the companies should have voluntarily added warnings to these product labels. They want the warnings added now and are seeking compensation to pay for their children’s current and ongoing care and support needs.
What Is Next for These Cases?
Many cases dealing with dangerous or defective drugs become mass torts or class action lawsuits. The courts group the lawsuits together to allow them to move through the process as a single case. This case might best fit the criteria for multidistrict litigation (MDL).
In an MDL, the cases proceed together through discovery, pre-trial motions, and several bellwether trials to determine how juries react to the case facts. These cases could end in a global or tiered settlement without ever going to trial individually.
What Should I Do If I Have Concerns?
If you believe your child’s ADHD or ASD diagnosis might be linked to acetaminophen use during pregnancy, you should contact an attorney reviewing these cases right away. An attorney can assess your options and discuss filing a lawsuit on your behalf.
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Van Law represents families hurt by dangerous or defective drugs. If you believe your child suffered harm because of acetaminophen exposure in the womb, our attorneys are exploring the link between autism, ADHD, and acetaminophen at this time. We provide free consultations for affected families. We are here to help you.
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