Tylenol and Autism
Tylenol (acetaminophen) is a widely used over-the-counter pain killer, but new scientific research has found that prolonged use of acetaminophen during pregnancy can lead to higher rates of autism, ADHD and other neurologic disorders.Tylenol (Acetaminophen)
Acetaminophen, sold under the brand name Tylenol, is one of the most popular and widely used pain relievers in the world. Tylenol has been around for decades, and it holds of a place of special distinction the pharmaceutical industry. Literally millions of people use Tylenol regularly for various ailments and almost everyone has a bottle of it in their house.
It is estimated that 20% of the adult population in the United State (roughly 50 million people) consume Tylenol or another acetaminophen product every week. Nationwide, 25 billion doses of the drug are consumed every year.
Despite the ubiquitous nature of Tylenol, acetaminophen is arguably one of the least understood over-the-counter medications. The mechanism of acetaminophen’s action inside the body is somewhat of a mystery. Exactly how the drug relieves pain and reduces fever has never been fully figured out.
Notwithstanding these unknowns, Tylenol has a reputation for being perfectly safe. As a result, acetaminophen is marketed to women as the safest pain reliever and fever-reducing drug for use during pregnancy. Tylenol and generic acetaminophen is used more than any other over-the-counter drug by pregnant women.Scientific Evidence Linking Tylenol During Pregnancy to Autism
In recent years, a developing body of scientific research has begun to identify a correlation between acetaminophen use during pregnancy and autism, attention deficit disorder (ADD) and other adverse neurodevelopmental conditions.Consensus Statement on Tylenol and Pregnancy
In 2021, a Consensus Statement from medical experts was published in the peer-reviewed medical journal Nature Reviews Endocrinology issuing warning to the medical community that the use of acetaminophen during pregnancy was harmful to fetal development and could lead to higher rates of autism and ADD. The Consensus Statement was joined and formally supported by 91 scientists, clinicians, and public health professionals from around the world.
The Consensus Statement summarized the leading epidemiological research studies and other evidence establishing the connection between prenatal exposure to acetaminophen and higher autism and ADD rates.JAMA Psychiatry Study
One of the most prominent studies on the topic was published in 2020 in the journal JAMA Psychiatry (the “JAMA Study”). The JAMA Study reported that found that umbilical cord “biomarkers of fetal exposure to acetaminophen were associated with significantly increased risk of childhood [autism] in a dose-response fashion.” The study further found that the association between in utero exposure to acetaminophen and autism was consistent across many different risk factors and subgroups. In other words, Tylenol use during pregnancy caused higher autism and ADD rates regardless of race, age, or medical history.Hopkins Cord Blood Study
An NIH-funded study by a team from Johns Hopkins was published in 2019 and found that exposure to acetaminophen in the womb may increase a child’s risk for ADD and autism spectrum disorder. The study looked at data from the Boston Birth Cohort, including umbilical cord blood samples from 996 births. Those babies with the highest acetaminophen levels in the cord blood were three times more likely to be on the autism spectrum compared to children with lower acetaminophen levels in their cord blood.Other Research on Link Between Tylenol and Autism
The Hopkins and JAMA studies are supported by other research finding that the use of Tylenol during pregnancy may lead to various neurological disorders, including autism and ADD. According to the Consensus Statement, at least 26 different observational studies have identified a causal link between autism and acetaminophen exposure during pregnancy.
16 of these observational studies specifically investigated dose-response and found that increased dose and duration of exposure to acetaminophen was associated with increased risk of autism and other disorders.
A 2018 study analyzed data from more than 130,000 pairs of mothers and children who were monitored from 3 to 11 years. The study determined that children who were exposed to Tylenol for prolonged periods during pregnancy had a 20% higher risk of autism.
The dose and length of acetaminophen use during pregnancy appear to have a correlation with the risk of autism and ADD. Small doses of Tylenol during pregnancy do not appear to increase the risk of autism. Based on this new research, many doctors now recommend that women avoid taking acetaminophen during pregnancy unless medically indicated.Tylenol Autism Lawsuit
The emerging research on the connection between in utero exposure to Tylenol and autism/ADD has prompted a number of Tylenol autism lawsuits against drug makers and major retailers. These product liability lawsuits allege that Tylenol and generic acetaminophen products caused children to develop autism and that the defendants failed to warn about this risk.
Even if the connection between acetaminophen and autism can be made, it does not mean your child's autism was caused by Tylenol. Even the plaintiffs' lawyers in the Tylenol lawsuit would agree that not every case of autism where the mother took Tylenol means that Tylenol caused the child's autism.
The scientific evidence generated in these Tylenol lawsuits may help to further advance our knowledge about the connection between acetaminophen during pregnancy and autism. If you are pregnant now what do you do? For now, pregnant women should consult with their doctor about the risks of using acetaminophen during pregnancy. Come to your doctor armed with the research and make a decision together what is best for you and your child.