Despite being hailed as a safe drug for pain, by 2013 lawsuits were piling up, citing 50,000 trips to the emergency room every year, all due to Tylenol causing liver and kidney failure. The grim truth is that as early as 2005, scientists already knew that “severe acetaminophen hepatotoxicity leads to acute liver failure.”
Reports also showed that unintentional overdoses accounted for hundreds of suicide attempts, deaths and liver transplants. Statistics from national database analyses in 2006 showed that acetaminophen accounted for an estimated 56,000 emergency room visits and 26,000 hospitalizations annually. The average annual death toll from acetaminophen overdose was 458.
A number of studies have also linked acetaminophen use during pregnancy with lifelong repercussions for the child, raising their risk of developing conduct disorders, hyperactivity and autism.
Acetaminophen Use Linked to Hyperactivity in Offspring
In 2014, a study in the journal JAMA Pediatrics6 revealed that “Research data suggests that acetaminophen is a hormone disruptor, and abnormal hormonal exposures in pregnancy may influence fetal brain development.” This is a significant concern, considering many pregnant women are likely to reach for an OTC pain reliever at some point during their pregnancy.
According to that 2014 study, use of acetaminophen during pregnancy was associated with a 37% increased risk of their child being diagnosed with hyperkinetic disorder, a severe form of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Their children were also 29% more likely to be prescribed ADHD medication by the time they were 7 years old. The strongest associations were observed in mothers who used acetaminophen in more than a single trimester, and the greater the frequency of use, the more likely their child was to experience behavioral problems. As reported by Forbes at the time:7
“Acetaminophen can cross the placenta, making its way to the fetus and its delicate developing nervous system. The drug is a known endocrine (hormone) disruptor, and has previously been linked to undescended testes in male infants.
Since the maternal hormone environment plays a critical role in the development of the fetus, the authors say that it’s ‘possible that acetaminophen may interrupt brain development by interfering with maternal hormones or via neurotoxicity such as the induction of oxidative stress that can cause neuronal death.’”