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Multidistrict Litigation Created for Acetaminophen Autism and ADHD Claims

Multidistrict Litigation Created for Acetaminophen Autism and ADHD Claims

A federal panel recently consolidated claims accusing retailers of failing to warn consumers that taking acetaminophen while pregnant can cause children to develop autism or ADHD. Major retailers like Costco and Walmart are defendants in the new multidistrict litigation that focuses on the undisclosed neurological effects of acetaminophen on the fetus. These lawsuits accuse retailers of neglecting to disclose the risk of using acetaminophen while pregnant. 

Pregnant Women Unaware of Risks Associated With Acetaminophen 

Many rely on acetaminophen drugs like Tylenol to relieve pains and reduce fevers. People of all demographics have likely taken acetaminophen at some point for a headache, toothache, menstrual cramps, cough, sore throat, and so on. There are some health concerns regarding taking acetaminophen in high doses. For example, medical professionals warn that adults should not take more than 3,000 mg of single-ingredient acetaminophen a day. Aside from this, acetaminophen has been considered one of the safest over-the-counter drugs. 

However, using acetaminophen while pregnant may lead to certain neurological disorders in children. For years, scientists have gathered evidence surrounding the effects of acetaminophen on the fetus if taken during the pregnancy. John Hopkins University measured acetaminophen in cord blood in 2019 to study the drug’s neurological reactions. The study found that babies exposed to acetaminophen were nearly three times more likely to develop ADHD or autism. 

Furthermore, in 2021, Nature Reviews Endocrinology released a Consensus Statement that explored the link between acetaminophen and autism/ADHD. Ninety-one scientists, clinicians, and public health professionals across the globe proposed precautionary action for pregnant women and acetaminophen use. 

JPML Forms MDL for Acetaminophen Autism and ADHD Lawsuits

On October 5, 2022, the Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation transferred 18 lawsuits to a federal court in New York. The next day, the panel assigned another 48 cases to MDL-3043, which brings the total number of cases under the MDL to 66. U.S. District Judge Denise Cote will preside over the lawsuits that claim acetaminophen use during pregnancy can result in autism or ADHD. Lawsuits state that major retailers knew or should have known about the in-utero impact of the drug on brain development. Furthermore, plaintiffs argue that retailers did not warn consumers that prenatal exposure to acetaminophen can cause children to develop neurobehavioral disorders like ADHD and autism. Major retailers named as defendants include: 

  • Costco
  • CVS
  • Walgreens
  • Rite Aid
  • Safeway
  • Target 
  • Walmart 

All of the defendants opposed the creation of the MDL, citing that acetaminophen manufacturers have not been sued yet. Therefore, the defendants believe this MDL is premature since the manufacturers are “indispensable parties.” Additionally, the defendants state that their acetaminophen products are safely labeled according to federal law. Yet, the JPML decided the MDL was appropriate since all the lawsuits involve similar questions of fact. Attorneys state that we could see tens of thousands of cases given the prevalence of acetaminophen and ADHD and autism.