Karlene DeGroot of Huntington Beach, Calif. was an ICU nurse when she was pregnant with her son Devin. Her DeGroodt, who worked 12 to 16 hours a day, most of which was on her feet, was taking acetaminophen several times a week for her pain.
After all, it was one of the few pain relievers her OB/GYN recommended.
“I was handed a bag of goodies with vitamin samples, snack bars, and a list of medications I could take, including Tylenol, which is safe to use,” DeGroodt said.
Devyn was diagnosed with autism before his third birthday. “He was a very happy baby, but there was no eye contact connection,” DeGroodt said.
Today, 14-year-old Devyn is nonverbal and uses an iPad to communicate. His mother suspects acetaminophen may have been the culprit. Is there a link between acetaminophen use and an increase in autism spectrum disorders?
For Dr. Roberta Ness, a women’s health expert at AutismJustice.com and former dean of the University of Texas School of Public Health, the answer is clear. “I’m pretty sure it’s not just related, it’s the cause,” Ness said.
Ness points to a growing body of research showing a relationship between the two. In 2015, the FDA issued a drug safety notice calling for additional research into the use of acetaminophen during pregnancy. A 2019 Johns Hopkins study funded by the National Institutes of Health concluded that results supported previous studies linking acetaminophen exposure in utero with ADHD and ASD, calling for additional research. rice field.
Now Nature’s Review Endocrinology publishes the consensus of 91 scientists, clinicians, and public health experts calling for a 2021 update to the 2015 FDA Drug Safety Communications recommendations.
Overall rates of developmental disorders increased by 9.5% between 2009-2011 and 2015-2017, according to the US National Health Interview Survey.
Dr. Ness said an estimated 60,000 children have been born with autism since 2015 due to exposure to acetaminophen. “Over the past seven years, manufacturers, FDA, and OBGYN have or should have been aware of this evolving literature and how compelling it is. I didn’t do anything for it.”
Not everyone agrees.
“Because the genetics and environmental etiology of autism and ADHD are poorly understood, caution should be exercised in associating Tylenol with causality or increased fetal risk,” the medical school told HealthyWomen.org. Told. “We have more to learn.”
In response, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists said, “The statement and previously conducted research clearly demonstrate a direct relationship between judicious use of acetaminophen during pregnancy and fetal development problems.” I haven’t shown any solid evidence,” he said.
Acetaminophen continues to be identified as safe for pain relief during pregnancy.
An FDA spokesperson said research studies on acetaminophen in the medical literature were “too limited to make recommendations.”
“Because of this uncertainty, the use of pain relievers during pregnancy should be carefully considered,” an FDA spokesperson said. “We recommend that pregnant women always discuss this with their health care professional before using any medication.”
The matter is now being taken to court. A multidistrict lawsuit was filed, and in October 2022, New York was certified to house all Tylenol lawsuits filed in US federal courts.
“I think the interesting thing about this acetaminophen lawsuit is the straw that broke the camel’s back in all the issues in the autism world,” DeGroodt said. “Imagine your child has a diagnosis, but no one knows what to do. In that case, it’s up to the parent to research and understand what can help the child. Even if your child is diagnosed with cancer, it will never happen.”
For today’s worried parents, Schendel says a consensus statement in Nature Reviews Endocrinology sums up the situation nicely.
“The best guidance is for women to consult their health care provider before taking any medication during pregnancy. It’s for short periods of time,” she said.