Several lawsuits have been filed against the manufacturers of acetaminophen over claims it causes autism.
What is acetaminophen?
Acetaminophen is an aspirin free pain reliever. It is in hundreds of medications and one of the most widely used over the counter medications in the United States. Examples include Tylenol, NyQuil, Excedrin and Mucinex.
What is autism?
Autism is a neurodevelopmental disorder which affects brain development. It also impacts the central nervous system which controls language, memory and social skills. Approximately 1 in 44 children is diagnosed with autism each year.
Does acetaminophen cause autism?
Several studies have linked acetaminophen to autism. A study published in 2008 in the journal Autism studied around 80 parents of children with autism and 80 parents of children without autism. The study compared children who were treated with acetaminophen after receiving vaccines and concluded that acetaminophen increases the risk of autism.
A 2014 study published in JAMA Pediatrics examined the side effects of medication on 64,000 children. The study found that mothers who used acetaminophen while pregnant were more likely to have children diagnosed with hyperactive disorders.
A 2017 study in the Journal of Internal Medical Research suggests that autism could be a brain injury induced by acetaminophen. The study also concludes that the risk of autism is greater when used in babies and young children than pregnant mothers.
A study published in 2019 in JAMA Psychology examined blood cord samples. It found that children whose blood cord contained acetaminophen were three times more likely to have autism than those without.
A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology in 2018 followed over 130,000 mothers and children for up to eleven years. Researchers found that children with mothers that used acetaminophen for an extended time while pregnant were 30% more likely to develop autism.
In May 2021, a study published in the Eurpoean Journal of Epidemiology found that children exposed to acetaminophen before birth increased the risk of autism by 19%.
How does acetaminophen cause autism?
Physicians are still trying to determine how exactly acetaminophen causes autism. But studies suggest that acetaminophen may be toxic to brain cells and it cannot be processed by some children.
What is the status of the litigation?
Plaintiffs are filing lawsuits against Johnson & Johnson, the manufacturer of Tylenol, and manufacturers of generic acetaminophen. This includes Walmart, Costco, Walgreens and CVS. The lawsuits claim that the manufacturers ignored studies like the ones listed above. They failed to warn users of the risk of autism.
The cases were recently consolidated in a multidistrict litigation (“MDL”) in Federal court in the Southern District of New York. It is expected that the number of lawsuits will increase as the litigation develops.