Current Claims Over Acetaminophen Pregnancy Risks

by Ed Scanlan on

A review of the latest in the federal multidistrict litigation for all lawsuits against the makers of Tylenol and other Acetaminophen products.

Acetaminophen products have been labeled as safe aspirin-free pain relievers and fever reducers for decades. In the 1980s, the use of Acetaminophen significantly increased after the CDC recommended pregnant people stop using asprin as it showed a link to a rare condition that causes serious brain and liver damage.  

Despite recommending popular Acetaminophen products such as Tylenol as an alternative, some studies suggest that the use of these medications while pregnant increases the risk of autism and ADHD diagnoses in the child. These neurological disorders impact both the central nervous system and brain development. 

Recent claims against companies like Tylenol and mass manufacturers of generic Acetaminophen brands including Walmart and Target say these products were directly linked in children developing these disorders. 

Here’s what we know so far:

Studies within the last decade show a possible connection between autism and Acetaminophen.

In a 2008 study, parents were asked whether or not their children were treated with Acetaminophen or ibuprofen after receiving a vaccination. The research found that ibuprofen use was not associated with an increased risk of autism, however, Acetaminophen was linked to an increase in the disorder. 

In 2014, JAMA Pediatrics published a more extensive study of more than 64,000 children and mothers that examined medication side effects. The study found that children of women who used Acetaminophen during pregnancy were 13-37% more likely to show ADHD symptoms and be treated with ADHD medications by age 7. The risk increased for mothers who used Acetaminophen for more than 20 weeks of their pregnancy.

Smaller studies continued to show similar results throughout the years. One of the most recent ones was conducted in May 2021 by the University of Barcelona that looked at more than 73,000 mother and child pairs across Europe. The research showed that children exposed to Acetaminophen before birth were 19% more likely to be diagnosed with autism, and 21% more likely to show signs of ADHD. 

Current claims target manufacturer warning labels.

The current claims focus on manufacturers’ lack of warning that their products can pose risks during pregnancy. Companies like Tylenol and large retailers such as Johnson & Johnson, Walmart, CVS, Walgreens, Costco, and other generic producers of the drugs are all being considered in these claims.

Many cases site that existing warning labels do not mention autism or ADHD and only state “If pregnant or breast-feeding, ask a health professional before use.”

Given the widespread use of Tylenol during pregnancy, more allegations around the exposure to the drug before birth will likely develop.

Where litigation stands today.

This month, a group of lawyers has been appointed to serve in various leadership roles in the recently established federal multidistrict litigation (MDL) for all lawsuits against the makers of Tylenol and other Acetaminophen products.

Plaintiffs lawyers Mikal Watts, Ashley Keller and Mark Lanier will spearhead a leadership team of 22 lawyers in the multidistrict litigation.

Coordinated pretrial proceedings were established in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, as claims are organized before Senior U.S. District Judge Denise Cote for discovery and scheduled “bellwether” trials to understand how juries may perceive certain evidence and testimony in the claims.

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