In October 2022, a health news report in UPI narrated the story of Karleen DeGroodt and her experience with Tylenol, which contains acetaminophen. She stays in Orange County, California, and works as a registered nurse. During her initial prenatal visit, Karleen received a gift bag that included prenatal vitamins and some approved over-the-counter (OTC) medications for her pregnancy, including Tylenol.
Since Karleen had to adhere to a demanding job schedule, she used Tylenol during tiring hospital shifts. She shared that her pregnancy often led to soreness and discomfort, which prompted her to use Tylenol once a week throughout her pregnancy.
Today, she has a 14-year-old boy named Devyn, who was diagnosed with autism at the age of two and a half. He has challenges expressing himself while communicating and primarily relies on an iPad for interaction.
When asked about the possible cause, DeGroodt mentioned that there is no history of autism in the family. Extensive medical and DNA genome tests have been conducted to determine if his condition is genetically linked, but no genetic associations with autism have been identified.
Therefore, DeGroodt believes that Tylenol might have caused autism in her child. While the Food and Drug Administration, certain medical organizations, and the manufacturer of Tylenol, Johnson & Johnson, acknowledge the need for further research, no definitive link has been established between neurobehavioral conditions and the use of acetaminophen.
However, in her account, Karleen discussed earlier epidemiological studies that relied on self-reporting by mothers who took acetaminophen. These studies revealed a 20% to 30% risk of ADHD and autism linked to this medicine.
Nevertheless, Ann Z. Bauer, an epidemiologist, mentioned that recent studies with biomarkers to evaluate acetaminophen exposure by analyzing its levels in maternal blood, umbilical cord, and the first feces of the newborn, suggested that the risk of ADHD and autism is ten times higher.
Is In-Utero Acetaminophen Exposure Fatal?
In July 2023, Undark reported that over 100 families with children diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism are taking legal action against companies that sell acetaminophen, an active ingredient in Tylenol, and various other medications. These families, through a Tylenol autism lawsuit, are suing Johnson & Johnson, the manufacturer of Tylenol, along with prominent retailers that use acetaminophen in their brand products.
According to the families, these companies knew about research linking prenatal usage of acetaminophen to neurodevelopmental issues in children. As a result, they argue that product labels should have included warnings regarding these potential risks.
The current understanding of acetaminophen’s impact on pregnancy primarily relies on a specific type of study that analyzes data to identify potential connections between prenatal exposures and developmental disorders. Within the scientific community, there has been an ongoing debate regarding the significance of these studies, as they were not originally designed to establish a causal link between a specific factor, such as acetaminophen, and the development of ADHD or autism.
However, in 2021, this debate peaked at a boiling point when a team of international scientists highlighted that even though the current research is limited, it suggests strong warnings regarding acetaminophen use during pregnancy.
Nature Reviews Endocrinology published a consensus statement that mentioned the need for “preventive action” through increased awareness and focused research on the probable risks of this drug. 91 public health professionals, clinicians, and scientists across the globe signed on to this.
In a 2017 Paediatrics study included in the initial consensus review, it was discovered that the risk of ADHD in children was equally increased even when the father and mother took acetaminophen during pregnancy.
In a meta-analysis conducted in 2021, researchers examined data from over 70,000 mother-child pairs participating in European birth cohorts. The study had questionnaires to evaluate mothers’ acetaminophen exposure during both prenatal and postnatal time, for up to 18 months. The children were kept in observation for four to twelve years to recognize symptoms associated with autism spectrum disorder and ADHD.
The findings of this study stated that children who had prenatal exposure to acetaminophen were 21% more likely to exhibit clinical symptoms of ADHD. Furthermore, the chances of autistic spectrum conditions were 19% higher in children with prenatal acetaminophen exposure.
Navigating the Legal Path
In October 2022, Reuters highlighted that a federal judicial panel established a new mass tort litigation to address claims against major retailers, including Walmart Inc. and Costco Wholesale Corp. The claims allege that these retailers failed to offer adequate warnings regarding the potential risks of using acetaminophen during pregnancy. The plaintiffs shared this usage can result in attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism spectrum disorder in children.
According to a Drugwatch report, in April 2023, there have been cases where women who used Tylenol during pregnancy gave birth to children diagnosed with autism and ADHD.
TorHoerman Law asserts that if you or your loved one ever face a similar situation, it is essential to file a legal complaint. But before that, it is imperative to get all the medical records that substantiate your claim and then work with an expert lawyer. Apart from ADHD and autism, Tylenol use during pregnancy has been linked with cerebral palsy, conduct disorder, language delays, and decreased IQ levels.
In-utero exposure to acetaminophen and its potential link to autism is a subject of ongoing research and legal scrutiny. The recent emergence of lawsuits against major retailers and manufacturers highlights the concerns raised by families affected by autism and ADHD. While studies have indicated a possible association between prenatal acetaminophen exposure and these neurodevelopmental disorders, further investigation is the need of the hour.
Furthermore, lawsuits against Tylenol for causing autism and ADHD continue to go up. It serves as a reminder of the importance of thorough research, responsible labeling, and informed decision-making to secure the well-being of expectant mothers and their children.