A medication normally prescribed to ease pre-term labor has been linked to autism and epilepsy. The findings come from researchers at the University of Colorado – Boulder.
The Findings at a Glance
Terbutaline is a medication that is used to treat asthma and pre-term labor. Administered by injection, the drug has been used “off-label” when prescribed to treat pre-term labor because it has never been approved by the Food and Drug Administration for that purpose.
That’s disturbing because, according to an article from Obstetrical and Gynecological Survey, over 260,000 pregnant women receive the medication annually to trim their chances of premature delivery.
In the CU Boulder study, researchers found that terbutaline injections combined with stress from the mother can lead to autism and epilepsy.
“Maternal stress has been linked to a lot of developmental disorders. It’s kind of a new thing that people are looking at pretty intensely right now,” said Daniel Barth, professor of neuroscience at CU Boulder. “We’re discovering that terbutaline preceded by stress can be devastating. Either one alone doesn’t do very much but when you combine them together, it has a tremendous amplifying effect.”
Earlier Studies Echo Potential Risk of Terbutaline
The CU Boulder study isn’t the first to sound the alarm bells about terbutaline.
- A Duke University study claimed that terbutaline is a neurotoxin – a term referred to substances that overstimulate nerve cells and interrupt their ability to communicate.
- The Journal of Child Neurology published the results of a study in 2005 that found fraternal twins were more likely to be diagnosed with autism if exposed to terbutaline.
- In 2007, the Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics revealed that in a study examining the effects of pre-labor injections of terbutaline in rats, they showed autism-like symptoms at birth.
How the FDA REALLY Feels About Terbutaline
Responding to a citizen petition about terbutaline, the FDA issued a black box warning for the medication, saying that it is simply not safe for expectant mothers and advised against it being administered.
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