Tylenol is one of the most well-known brand names for acetaminophen, an aspirin-free pain reliever, and fever reducer. Acetaminophen use increase dramatically in the US in the 1980s after the CDC recommended stopping the use of aspirin while pregnant because it can be linked to a rare condition that causes serious brain and liver damage.
However, many studies have suggested use of acetaminophen products such as Tylenol while pregnant increases the risk of autism and ADHD diagnoses in the child.
Autism and ADHD are two different neurodevelopmental disorders. Both impact the central nervous system and affect brain development. Both disorders are more common in boys, and the rates for both are rising.
According to the CDC about 1 in 44 children in the US were diagnosed with ASD in 2018, while in 2000 about 1 in 150 were diagnosed.
Autism begins before age 3 and generally lasts throughout a person’s life, though some symptoms may improve over time. People with autism may behave, communicate or learn in ways that are different from other people. The abilities of those with autism vary as well, some people may have advanced conversations and others may be nonverbal.
People with autism may have difficult social communication and awareness skills, such as:
- Avoid making or keeping eye contact
- Does not respond to their name by 9 months old
- Does not play interactive games, like pat-a-cake, by 12 months old
- Does not notice other children and join them in play by 3 years old
They also exhibit some restricted or repetitive behaviors, like playing with toys the same way every time, having obsessive interest or flapping hands, spinning in circles or rocking their body back and forth.
Although it is normal for children to have trouble focusing, kids with ADHD do not outgrow these behaviors, and they often cause difficulty at school, at home, or with friends. Someone with ADHD may exhibit behaviors such as:
- Forgetting often, or losing items
- Fidgeting or squirming
- Talking too much
- Taking unnecessary risks
- Having trouble taking turns
- Difficulty getting along with others
A 2008 study done by Stephen T. Schultz linked the possibility of a connection between autism and acetaminophen. Parents were surveyed about whether their children were treated with acetaminophen or ibuprofen after receiving the same vaccination. Researchers found that ibuprofen use was not associated with an increased risk of autism, but acetaminophen was.
In 2014, a study found that using acetaminophen while pregnant increases the risk of ADHD-like behaviors in children, and suggested further investigation was needed.
In 2014, JAMA Pediatrics published a study of more than 64,000 children and mothers that examined medication side effects. They found that children born to women who used acetaminophen while pregnant were 13-37% more likely to be diagnosed with ADHD, be treated with ADHD medications, or have ADHD-like behaviors by age 7. The risk was great among mothers who used acetaminophen for more than 20 weeks during pregnancy.
The Journal of Internal Medicine Research posted a study in 2017 that suggested the use of acetaminophen in babies and young children may be associated with autism, and autism may be “an acetaminophen-induced brain injury.”
Most recently, in May 2021, the University of Barcelona published a study in the European Journal of Epidemiology that looked at more than 73,000 mother and child pairs across Europe. They found 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.
A group of plaintiffs filed a motion on July 10, 2022, with the US Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation, which seeks to consolidate acetaminophen autism lawsuits into a new class action. The motion identified 20 Tylenol autism lawsuits currently pending in various federal courts. All these cases involve nearly identical factual allegations and legal claims.
If your child was diagnosed with autism or ADHD and you used acetaminophen products like Tylenol while pregnant, you may benefit from speaking with a dangerous drug attorney. There are time limits to filing dangerous drug lawsuits, so it’s best to act as quickly as possible.