Terbutaline Sulfate (Brethine, Bricanyl) is a medication designed to control asthma, but has been prescribed to over one million women on an "off-label" basis to prevent premature labor by halting early contractions. And although the drug was never approved for such use by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), it issued its first warning as early as 1997 against Terbutaline’s use “...for management of pre-term labor”. Premature labor occurs in approximately 20 percent of pregnancies in the United States.
The use of terbutaline during pregnancy has been linked with an increased risk for brain damage and cognitive difficulties in infants, which can continue through their adolescence and onto perpetuity. Terbutaline has also been suspected of causing heart and lung damage in women who recently took the drug.
A Duke University study has also prompted the National Asthma Education and Prevention Program (NAEPP) to recommend that terbutaline no longer be given to pregnant women to treat mild intermittent asthma. The drug tends to reach the fetus and affect the development of its brain. After birth, the child’s brain can become susceptible to particular chemicals present in the environment, predisposing the child to develop certain medical conditions later in life.
Following are among the potential side effects a child may suffer as a result of exposure to terbutaline:
- Birth defects
- Brain damage (cognitive defects, damage to the medulla)
- Movement disorders (neurodegenerative malfunction the central nervous system, nerves, and/or muscles that prevent normal movement)
- Speech defects (including articulation problems, stuttering/cluttering, voice disorders, delayed speech, and aphasia)
Despite the available evidence and cautions, some physicians continue to treat pregnant women with terbutaline. If you or a loved one (mother or child) has suffered injury as a result of having been exposed to terbutaline, you should consider a consultation with an experienced pharmaceutical injury attorney. You may be entitled to compensation for the damages and suffering caused to you or your loved one by a negligent physician.