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Don Lavoie is alcohol programme manager at Public Health England and Gul Root is lead pharmacist, Health and Wellbeing Directorate, Public Health England
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LabRatFebruary 1 2016

An OTC representative organisation has downplayed sensationalist news headlines that paracetamol use in pregnancy can cut female fertility.

A study led by the MRC Centre for Reproductive Health at the University of Edinburgh concluded that use of paracetamol in pregnancy could affect the germ cells in daughters and granddaughters, reducing levels of their fertility.

However, PAGB, the trade body representing OTC medicines manufacturers, has said that the research “reported that using painkillers during pregnancy may reduce the fertility of any female offspring. The study was carried out on rats not humans, using a small number of animals.”

While welcoming any new research on OTC medicines, John Smith, PAGB Chief Executive, said: “The study findings resulted from tests on a small number of rats and much more research would be needed to establish if the same effect applied to humans.

“The official NHS advice on paracetamol is that it can be used through all stages of pregnancy to reduce a high temperature (fever) and relieve pain. Current guidelines advise that pregnant women use paracetamol at the lowest effective dose for the shortest possible time. This is supported by a large body of evidence from over 50 years of paracetamol use in humans.

“We would recommend that pregnant women should always speak to their GP, midwife or pharmacist before taking any medicine, including paracetamol. It’s also important to read the product information carefully and use according to the instructions.”

The Medicines Research Council announcement on the study said that the findings are significant “given the similarities between the reproductive systems of rats and humans, although it is difficult to directly extrapolate these results to pregnant women.

“The team recommends that pregnant women should stick with current guidelines to use painkillers at the lowest possible dose, for the shortest possible time.”

Links:

MRC announcement

PAGB statement

A Dean et al. ‘Analgesic exposure in pregnant rats affects fetal germ cell development with inter-generational reproductive consequences’. Scientific Reports 6, Article number: 1978. Published online January 27 2016

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