Tylenol (Acetaminophen) May Cause Autism and ADHD in Children
Tylenol (acetaminophen) is an over-the-counter pain reliever that can be found on its own or in combination with over 600 other drugs on the market today. Also known globally as “paracetemol,” it is one of the most commonly used pain relievers (analgesics) and fever-reducers in the United States.
Tylenol (acetaminophen) is different from other common pain relief tablets, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen. These drugs are in a class known as Non-steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs). NSAIDs relieve pain both by reducing swelling and stiffness at the site of an injury, as well as by affecting certain pathways within the brain. By contrast, Tylenol(acetaminophen) ’s mechanism of action occurs only within the brain and not at localized areas of pain.
The way in which Tylenol (acetaminophen) exerts its analgesic and fever-reducing effect is not completely understood. However, Tylenol (acetaminophen) has been shown to reduce activity in a specific pathway within the brain known as “COX.” This interference prevents the synthesis of prostaglandins, a class of organic compounds largely responsible for inflammation within the body. Acetaminophen may also exert its pain-relieving and fever-reducing effects by stimulating the cannabinoid system within the brain. Research to support this theory is ongoing.
Tylenol (Acetaminophen) vs NSAIDs in Pregnancy
Pregnant women have very limited options when it comes to pain relief during pregnancy. Until recently, Tylenol (acetaminophen) was considered the only safe option for both the mother and fetus to take at all stages of gestation.
Unlike NSAIDs, which carry a known risk of bleeding, gastrointestinal issues, and certain birth defects, Tylenol (acetaminophen) has been freely touted as safe to use during pregnancy. Women are encouraged to use it at an appropriate dose to treat common aches and pains associated with pregnancy, from back aches to knee pain. It is estimated that up to 65 percent of women in the US will take Tylenol (acetaminophen) at some point during their pregnancy.
Tylenol (Acetaminophen) Linked to ADHD and ASD in Children
Unfortunately, emerging studies are showing a compelling link between the prolonged use of Tylenol (acetaminophen) during pregnancy and certain developmental disorders in children, namely Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD).
In 2019, for example, the NIH funded a study that collected blood samples from nearly 1000 umbilical cords from the Boston Birth Cohort.
Researchers measured the amount of Tylenol (acetaminophen) and two of its metabolites within the blood samples. Higher concentrations of Tylenol(acetaminophen) and its byproducts were found to be correlated with an increased presence of ADHD and ASD in the children to whom the samples belonged.
Ultimately, those with the highest concentration were found to be 2.86 times more likely to develop ADHD, and 3.62 times more likely to have ASD. Of the 996 samples taken, 25.8% were diagnosed with ADHD by the time they were around 9 years old; 6.6% had ASD, and 4.2% had both.
Another particularly compelling study conducted by JAMA Pediatrics surveyed more than 64,000 Danish mothers and found a significant link between the use of Tylenol (acetaminophen) and ADHD. Half of the mothers reported using the drug whilst pregnant. By age 7, follow up surveys found that the children of mothers who reported using Tylenol (acetaminophen) during pregnancy were 13 to 37 percent more likely to have a diagnosis of hyperkinetic disorder, be treated with ADHD medications, or have ADHD-like behaviors. The longer the drug was used, the greater the risk (50 percent or more for mothers who used the drug for 20 weeks or longer while pregnant).
Finally, a 2018 study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that children of women who used Tylenol (acetaminophen) for an “extended period of time” (defined as 22 to 28 days) were 30 percent more likely to develop ADHD between 3 and 11 years of age, and 20 percent more likely to develop autism during the same time frame.
Does Giving a Child Tylenol (Acetaminophen) Cause Autism?
Unfortunately, early research is also demonstrating a potential link between Tylenol (acetaminophen) and autism in children given the medication after birth. The oxidative stress caused in vitro to a developing brain may also extend to infants and children after birth (especially before 18 weeks of age), resulting in an “Tylenol(acetaminophen) -induced brain injury” and ultimately, signs of autism. A 2017 study suggests that the compelling link between autism and prenatal use of Tylenol (acetaminophen) warrants further studies on its use in infants and small children after birth.
How Does Tylenol (Acetaminophen) Cause ADHD and ASD?
The exact reasons why Tylenol (acetaminophen) may cause ADHD and/or autism in children is not known. Studies are ongoing, but early research suggests that it may be connected to an induced hormone imbalance or the disruption of signaling pathways within the fetus’ developing brain. Autism, specifically, may also be the result of neuronal oxidative stress caused by Tylenol (acetaminophen) . Again, studies as to the causation are ongoing.
Mothers Should Be Warned About Using Tylenol (Acetaminophen) During Pregnancy
Due to the growing body of evidence, a group of international medical experts has issued a “call for precautionary action” against the use of Tylenol (acetaminophen) during pregnancy. Their review of current research concluded that prenatal exposure to the drug could affect fetal development, resulting in an increased risk for certain developmental and behavioral disorders. Specifically, the study found an association between Tylenol (acetaminophen) use during pregnancy and a statistically increased prevalence of childhood ADHD and autism, as well as lower overall IQ and language skills.
It should be noted that this review does not suggest that women avoid Tylenol (acetaminophen) altogether during pregnancy, especially in cases of high fever. It does recommend, however, that women receive thorough counseling about potential adverse effects exposure can have on fetal development.
A figure from Bauer et al highlighting a link between the use of Tylenol(acetaminophen) , identified here as N-acetyl-p-aminophenol (APAP), and an increased risk of ADHD and autism.
Tylenol (Acetaminophen) Lawsuits for ADHD and Autism
Despite compelling evidence and a collective plea from the international medical community, pharmaceutical companies continue to market Tylenol (acetaminophen) to pregnant women as being completely safe with “minimal side effects,” making zero mention of the potential risks to the growing fetus or in young children.
Not surprisingly, more individuals are pursuing legal action against these companies. As more evidence comes to light, the number of lawsuits related to Tylenol (acetaminophen) use in pregnancy and early childhood is likely to grow. As of July 2022, the US Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation is reviewing a motion to consolidate Tylenol(acetaminophen) autism and ADHD lawsuits before one judge.
Lawyer for Prenatal Tylenol (Acetaminophen) Lawsuit
Manufacturers of drugs containing Tylenol (acetaminophen) have a responsibility to acknowledge growing research and label their drugs with known or potential risks. Under the legal premise of “mass tort,” an entity is liable if omission of certain information caused injury to many people. In this case, the omission of risks associated with the use of a drug clearly falls under mass tort, and victims deserve compensation.
If you or someone you know used Tylenol (acetaminophen) during pregnancy and has a child or children diagnosed with autism and/or ADHD, please contact our office for a free consultation. Likewise, if your child was prescribed Tylenol (acetaminophen) within 18 weeks after birth and was later diagnosed with a developmental disorder, call or go online to review your case with one of our experienced lawyers.
To speak with one of our lawyers, please call us at (303) 327-9988 or submit an online contact form today.
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