Last updated on August 7th, 2023
Parents have filed lawsuits alleging that taking Tylenol during pregnancy caused ADHD and autism in their children. Here is what you need to know about the latest developments from Judge Cote’s courtroom in Manhattan.
Although most of us understand that medications can have undesirable side effects, there are certain medicines, particularly those that we can purchase over the counter, that we believe are safe. But just because a medication has been in wide use for a long time doesn’t necessarily mean that there aren’t risks, and the Tylenol ADHD lawsuits prove that, with parents alleging this commonly used medication altered the course of their children’s lives.
A 2019 study by Johns Hopkins University points to strong evidence of a correlation between maternal use of acetaminophen (often sold under the brand name Tylenol, among others) and ADHD and autism spectrum disorder diagnoses in children. In essence, mothers who take acetaminophen during pregnancy are statistically more likely to have children with ADHD or autism.
For years, women were assured that acetaminophen (also known as APAP or paracetamol) use during pregnancy was safe. This view was so prevalent that 65% of pregnant women were estimated to have used acetaminophen during their pregnancy as of 2005, according to a large-scale study.
There are likely to be many children who were exposed to an increased risk of autism and ADHD due to acetaminophen use during pregnancy. These disorders cost money in their diagnosis and treatment. Who should be held responsible for these costs?
A growing number of claimants are asking companies that manufacture or sell acetaminophen to take responsibility for diagnoses of autism or ADHD.
Legal actions have been taken against manufacturers and retailers of acetaminophen. If you or a loved one has been injured by exposure to acetaminophen, read on to find out the options available to you.
Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a chronic condition that is normally diagnosed in childhood. According to the Mayo Clinic, there is no single behavior that indicates ADHD, nor is there a simple test for it. Instead, it is a collection of potential behaviors. Diagnosis is made based on how many of a certain set of behaviors a child demonstrates.
Based on research compiled on the Mayo Clinic website, there are three subtypes of ADHD: predominantly inattentive, predominantly hyperactive/impulsive, or a combination of inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity.
Inattentive behaviors include:
Hyperactive and impulsive behaviors include:
To a degree, most children display many of these characteristics; it’s a natural part of childhood. However, a child with ADHD may struggle with severe versions of these behaviors that impact the child’s life.
The cause of ADHD is not fully understood. Current thinking is that genetics and environmental issues during development may contribute.
Although rumors of a link between acetaminophen and ADHD/autism swirled online for years, there weren’t peer-reviewed medical studies published prior to 2014. In that year, several studies using data from European countries showed a statistically relevant correlation between fetal acetaminophen exposure and ADHD/autism.
Since then, there have been multiple original studies, meta-analyses, and systematic reviews that have supported this connection. In addition to the Johns Hopkins study mentioned above, some of the more significant include:
A 2014 study by Liew et al found mothers who took acetaminophen while pregnant were 37% more likely to have children who were diagnosed with HKD or showed ADHD-like behavior at the age of 7.
A 2017 study by Ystrom et al showed a 120% increased risk of ADHD in Norwegian children whose mothers took acetaminophen for more than 29 days during pregnancy.
A 2019 study by Ji et al showed that infants who had higher levels of acetaminophen in their umbilical cord blood were nearly three times more likely to have ADHD
In 2021, 91 scientists, clinicians, and public health professionals from around the world published a consensus statement in the journal Nature Reviews Endocrinology. This statement identifies acetaminophen (or paracetamol) as a potential risk for fetal development.
A peer-reviewed systematic review of previous studies was published by Khan et al in July 2022. It includes many of the studies mentioned above and is an excellent resource for anyone investigating the issue.
While the majority of studies demonstrate a correlation between maternal acetaminophen use and ADHD or autism, critics point out that just because two things happen at the same time doesn’t necessarily mean that one caused the other (or, more succinctly, correlation does not mean causation). Although many studies show that Tylenol or acetaminophen use is linked to ADHD, that doesn’t mean the acetaminophen caused ADHD. It could be the case that some underlying issues, such as inflammation, caused both the pain that led a woman to take Tylenol during pregnancy and ADHD or autism.
The studies showing the link are less than a decade old. Further research into this matter is required to clarify the exact connection between Tylenol use and developmental disorders.
With all this being said, there are individuals who believe that their children have been harmed by the use of acetaminophen during pregnancy. And, even though the science is still emerging, people have the right to seek legal recourse against manufacturers and retailers of acetaminophen. It will then be up to the court to decide whether those manufacturers have a financial responsibility to people who were injured.
If you think you have a case, here are your next steps:
Once you’ve decided you’d like to pursue legal action and have proof of your child’s diagnosis, the next step is to contact an attorney.
At this point, you’ve probably already collected the basic medical evidence of your child’s medical condition. But, for the best chance of success, you’ll want to collect additional information. Speak with your lawyer to determine exactly what you should collect, but here are some basics.
Things are continually changing, and there may be additional requirements for specific lawsuits. However, in general, the following criteria are necessary to bring this sort of case:
In a perfect world, we would be able to undo any neurological damage that was caused by maternal acetaminophen use. Barring that, the next best option is to ensure that families who have been affected have the resources they need to help affected children thrive.
If manufacturers or retailers of acetaminophen knew or should have known that the medication increases the risk of children being born with ADHD or ASD, they can be held legally accountable in a court of law. This sort of trial is a civil case, meaning that the court can award monetary damages, but not jail time (although a civil case does not prevent a criminal case, which could involve jail time, from being initiated).
Drug liability lawsuits can be extremely complicated and costly, with a lot of moving parts. It would be extremely difficult to prove that any single dose of acetaminophen that a pregnant woman took was the cause of fetal damage. Instead, the court must weigh how much of the medication a woman took, how severe the results were, and when acetaminophen manufacturers and retailers had an obligation to notify people that their medicine could potentially be risky.
Each case is different. But cases of this sort have a lot in common, as well—for example, the obligation of the manufacturers to notify people would have a date that would apply to everyone. The same is true of a lot of the evidence showing a link between maternal acetaminophen use and ADHD. It would be efficient to pool this information and use it for more than one case.
This is the concept behind multi-district litigation (MDL). An MDL suit consolidates and shares a lot of the pre-trial requirements. However, unlike class action lawsuits, plaintiffs in an MDL generally receive their own verdicts and settlement amounts. This means that some cases in the MDL might be successful, while others aren’t. It also highlights the need for an attorney who really understands these sorts of cases.
You may also be able to bring an individual lawsuit against manufacturers or retailers of acetaminophen. Speak with your attorney to determine what makes the most sense for you.
Court cases like this are incredibly complicated, long proceedings. Although you’re not required to hire an attorney who specializes in product liability, personal injury, or mass torts, it’s in your best interest to do so. Not every attorney will have experience litigating a case like this, and you often only get one chance to make your case. You need a lawyer who really understands this sort of case. If you can find an attorney who specializes in pharmaceutical litigation, even better.
You may be familiar with local attorneys who advertise that they handle this sort of case. They may very well be qualified, and that could be a good place to start. But you’re not required to use an attorney in the same city as you. You’re better off finding an extremely qualified attorney than you are just picking someone who is nearby.
Use initial consultations to get a sense of whether you’re comfortable with the attorney. There’s no such thing as the best attorney for everyone. Instead, you’re going to want to look for someone that you can see yourself working with for the long term. If you get a bad feeling about a certain attorney, that can be a good sign to keep looking. Refer to the Contact an Attorney section above for additional hints on how to find the right attorney for you.
Although there seems to be a lot of evidence pointing to a connection between maternal acetaminophen use and ADHD/ASD, there is still a need for additional research. However, if you believe your child has been injured, now may be the time to consider a Tylenol ADHD lawsuit.
A qualified and experienced attorney is your best possible guide through the legal process. It’s generally free to contact an attorney, so don’t hesitate if you’re considering a lawsuit. A quick phone call can put you on the path to recovering what you and your child deserve.
In a class action, all of the plaintiffs suffered similar damage from the same source. Mass tort suits are aggregations of a large group of plaintiffs making similar claims. Read more here.
The first step upon encountering a defective toy is to seek medical help if an injury has occurred. Following that, your best bet will be to speak with an experienced defective products attorney as soon as possible. See more about toy recalls and claims here.
You must file a product liability claim within two years after you actually learn (or should have known) of the injury or harm upon which your claim is based. Read more about defective drug lawsuits here.
In many cases, you may be able to recover for any damages you have sustained, including your medical expenses, lost income, loss of quality of life, and physical and emotional pain and suffering. Read more about defective retail products here.
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