Research team challenges irresponsible data reporting on medication use during pregnancy

KIE Director and Senior Research Scholar Maggie Little, along with Anne Lyerly and Marisha Wickremsinhe, have followed up on a 2016 article in JAMA Pediatrics, titled “Association of acetaminophen use during pregnancy with behavior problems in childhood: evidence against confounding.” The original article claims to have demonstrated that children exposed prenatally to acetaminophen use in the second and third trimesters are at increased risk of multiple behavioral difficulties.

The authors argue in response that, at best, the study’s conclusion overstates the implications of this single study: the associations reported are weak and well below the threshold suggestive of a causal association. Further, they argue that poorly understood information can lead to suboptimal health care, particularly for at-risk patient groups, like pregnant women, with whom there is a lack of associated research.

Drs. Little and Lyerly are lead investigators on two grants related to the ethics of treating illness during pregnancy team, one focused on HIV/AIDS and the other on Zika and other emerging public health crises. Wickremsinhe is a research associate on both grants.

Read an excerpt from their letter below:

Pregnant women deserve research that fills the evidence gap, not research that misinforms. They need accurate, clinically relevant information to make decisions that will support their health and that of the children they will bear. They do not need to be misled by observational findings that more likely than not may turn out to be false and have no clinical relevance. In the media’s coverage of the study, the message has been to “talk to your doctor,” placing discretion and judgment on the clinician. Yet the responsibility for judgment also lies elsewhere: in the appropriate analysis and reporting of epidemiologic data.

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