CVS and Walmart Facing Lawsuits for Selling Painkillers Blamed for Causing Autism

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Retailers of pain relievers acetaminophen (APAP), popularly known as paracetamol, are facing a slew of lawsuits alleging that women who took the drug during pregnancies ended up giving birth to children with neurological issues like autism and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).

According to one lawsuit, filed by plaintiff Tiffany Rutledge against Walmart, the plaintiff took APAP products from August or September 2008 and April 2009 when she was pregnant with her first child, referred to as Plaintiff C.R., as well as between December 2010 or January 2011 to September 2011 when she was pregnant with her second child, referred to as Plaintiff L.R.

During the time, she believed it was safe to take APAP products during the pregnancies. There was no warning on the products addressing the risk of potential ADHD or ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) if a pregnant woman were to ingest APAP. If she had been informed about this, Rutledge would not have consumed APAP products, the lawsuit states.

Plaintiff C.R. was born in April 2009, was diagnosed with ADHD in 2014, and is currently on medication. The child had to leave school and be home-schooled due to her condition.

Plaintiff L.R. was born in September 2011 and was diagnosed with ADHD at 5 years old. She is unable to finish meals, cannot sit still, and has issues with sleeping. Like her elder sibling, Plaintiff L.R. is also taking medication for ADHD. Rutledge believes her second child also has ASD and is presently awaiting an evaluation.

Walmart “has concealed the prenatal APAP exposure-neurodevelopmental link from consumers, like Plaintiff Mother, in part by not reporting the link to the FDA, which relies on drug manufacturers to bring new information about a drug to the agency’s attention,” the lawsuit states.

CVS Lawsuit, Combining Claims

Another lawsuit, filed by plaintiff Aunesty Janssen against CVS and Walgreens Boots Alliance, also alleges that the defendants failed to warn that prenatal exposure to APAP could result in ASD in children.

Pregnant women take the drug as the “Defendants have marketed APAP as a safe pain reliever” for such women, the lawsuit argues, while stating that over 65 percent of women in the United States take APAP during their pregnancy.

Women have filed 87 lawsuits against sellers of store-brand pain relievers in seven states, according to Bloomberg.

Some of the plaintiffs’ lawyers have asked a panel of federal judges to consolidate the multiple lawsuits into a single multi-district litigation (MDL) case. This is expected to allow for easier sharing of information and schedule test trials.

Conflicting Views

There are conflicting views about the link between APAP and neurological issues like ADHD or ADS.

A study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology found a 20 percent rise in autism risk among children if the mother consumes high rates of APAP during her pregnancy, Bloomberg reported.

In support of the drug’s use, the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) called APAP “one of the only safe pain relievers for pregnant individuals during pregnancy” in a September 2021 article.

It insisted that there were no studies showing “clear evidence” of a direct relationship between the “prudent use of acetaminophen during any trimester and fetal developmental issues.”

An analysis of data from 11 American states estimated that one in 44 children aged 8 years had been diagnosed with ASD or had received a special education classification of the disorder in 2018.

The Epoch Times reached out to Wallgreens and CVS for comment.

Naveen Athrappully


Naveen Athrappully is a news reporter covering business and world events at The Epoch Times.

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