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Details about the connection between OTC acetaminophen and autism
A study examining hospital records of over 73,000 mother-child pairs across Europe in 2021 found that children exposed to acetaminophen in OTC pain relief products while in utero might have been 19% more likely to be diagnosed with autism or an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) than those children who were not.
The results of this survey conclude that using acetaminophen during pregnancy might have increased the victim’s risk of having a child with autism.
There are several notable studies that have associated the use of acetaminophen for pain relief in pregnancy with an elevated risk of ASD, including:
- A 2018 metanalysis of seven studies involving 132,178 pairs of mothers and children suggested excessive use of acetaminophen during pregnancy increased the risk of autism by 20%.
- Another study involving samples of 996 mother-child pairs of umbilical blood found that children with elevated acetaminophen exposure were almost to 3.62x more likely to be diagnosed with an ASD.
In fact, doctors involved with the study recommend that acetaminophen be used in pregnancy “only when necessary”--but, there is the suggestion that almost 70% of pregnant women use some OTC acetaminophen products throughout the course of a pregnancy.
Even though the U.S. Food & Drug Administration placed acetaminophen in the Pregnancy Category B–which describes drugs that have not shown a fetal risk–it’s critical to remember that:
- Pregnancy Category B drugs have not been subject to controlled studies in pregnant women;
- Pregnancy Category B drugs have been shown to have adverse effects in animal reproduction studies that were not confirmed in controlled studies of women; and,
- Pregnancy Risk Category A, the class of drugs reserved for medications that have been deemed completely “safe,” contains no pain relievers.
Details about children diagnosed with autism or one of the autism spectrum disorders
Currently, almost 1 in 59 children suffer the effects of autism–and, while diagnoses are rising, it’s unclear to tell if the trend is due to an increased diagnosis or an increased occurrence.
An individual child with autism that is often referred to as “on the spectrum” may exhibit various symptoms that range from mild to moderate to severe.
Some of the most common ASD symptoms include:
- Patterns of behavior. Many children with autism behave in ways that seem unusual or have unusual interests.
- Lack of social skills. Children with autism have difficulty interacting with others–those that are considered “on the spectrum” usually begin exhibiting social symptoms between ages 8 to 10 months old.
- Communications problems. About 40% of kids with autism don’t talk; between 25% and 30% develop some language skills in infancy but lose them later; while others don’t begin talking until later in life.
Current treatments for autism attempt to reduce symptoms that interfere with daily functioning and quality of life–and because ASD affects each person differently, people with ASD have unique strengths and challenges and different treatment needs.
Treatment plans usually involve multiple professionals and are catered to the individual–which could mean that treatment of a child with autism or an autism spectrum disorder can be lifelong and expensive.
The team at Consumer Justice Action encourages mothers that took Tylenol® or similar OTC acetaminophen products for pain relief during pregnancy and gave birth to a child diagnosed with autism to request a free, private case evaluation for potential compensation.
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