Though the cause of autism remains unknown, many look to environmental factors, vaccines and medications as possible triggers, including Brethine (terbutaline). Advertisements placed by Brethine autism lawsuit attorneys have raised serious questions in the minds of many parents of children with autism. The questions arise from an off label use of the prescription drug.
A medication approved by the Federal Drug Administration, or FDA, for the treatment of asthma, Brethine is one brand name version of a drug called terbutaline in its generic form, and also sold under the brand name Bricanyl. This medication works to relieve the symptoms of asthma by relaxing the bronchial tubes in the lungs, easing the passage of air.
Beginning in 1974, Brethine began to be commonly prescribed for an off label usage, to control preterm labor in pregnant women in the attempt to prevent premature birth. It is believed to work in the uterus in the same manner as it does in the bronchial tubes, relaxing the contractions. However, off label use means that a drug is prescribed for a purpose for which the FDA has not approved it as safe and effective.
In 2011, the FDA issued a label change for terbutaline that warns against using the medication for preterm labor. The warning does not include pervasive developmental disorders as possible problems that can occur.
Side Effects for Pregnant Mothers
In recent years, studies have shown that Brethine has a variety of possible side effects when used in controlling premature labor. Mothers for who take the drug to control preterm labor may experience side effects such as:
- Pulmonary edema
- Increased blood sugar levels
- Irregular or rapid heartbeat
Less common side effects include:
- Dangerously low blood pressure
- Calcium or potassium deficiencies
- Physical tremors, most often in the hands
Possible Side Effects in Unborn Babies
While the possible side effects of Brethine in expectant mothers can be quite serious, those that can occur in the unborn child can carry lifelong consequences. Studies have linked the administration of Brethine during pregnancy to a number of issues in children that include:
- Brain damage
- Developmental delays
- Birth defects
- Speech delays
- Movement disorders
The Focus of Brethine Autism Lawsuits
Of course, it is the reported connection to autism and other pervasive developmental disorders that has spurred Brethine autism lawsuit filings. Brethine seems to overstimulate certain receptors in the brain which are critical to normal prenatal brain maturation. This excessive stimulation apparently causes neuroinflammation, which may be a possible contributor to the development of autism spectrum disorders.
Off Label Use and Injury
Due to the link between autism and Brethine suggested by these studies, personal injury and medical malpractice lawyers are urging parents of children with autism who were exposed to the drug during gestation to sue. Some law firms, such as Carter Law Offices, are recruiting clients. Many of them offer free case evaluations for parents who believe that Brethine triggered the symptoms of autism in their children. Among the issues upon which these cases are built is the unapproved or off label use of the drug, done against the advice of the drug manufacturer, which has issued statements warning against its use as a preterm labor preventative.
Know Your Lawyer
Parents who believe their child may have been affected by prenatal exposure to Brethine, and are considering a lawsuit, should be sure to research their options carefully. While most law firms deal with clients fairly, there are some who will use the misfortune of others for their own profit, charging exorbitant fees for their services, leaving clients to collect very little. Often, fees are structured as a percentage of any award or settlement gained from the case, the amount varying from one law firm to the next. Be sure to read the fine print before committing yourself to any legal agreement, and make sure that fees or percentages are reasonable.
Checking into the reputation of any law firm you are considering for representation is wise, and can be done by contacting the local Better Business Bureau or the American Bar Association to check for consumer complaints.