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Terbutaline Sulfate in Preterm Labor, Brain Damage to Infant, Impaired Cognitive Development

Terbutaline Sulfate is asthma medication that is often used to treat early labor contractions and is sold as Brethine and Bricanyl. Studies have shown a link between the use of terbutaline during pregnancy and an increased risk of brain damage and cognitive deficits in those infants at birth. Researchers hypothesise that terbutaline can lead to autism because it interferes with beta 2 adrenergic receptors which play a major role in brain development.  Animal studies of terbutaline have shown overstimulation of beta 2 receptors, resulting in brain abnormalities.

According to a Reuters Health bulletin "Pregnant women with mild intermittent asthma should be prescribed short-acting inhaled beta-2 agonists, such as albuterol, rather than terbutaline, according to new clinical guidelines."

A Duke University study has illustrated the risk of terbutaline to infants suggesting that use of terbutaline might leave the brains of children susceptible to damage by chemicals ubiquitous to the environment. The study mentioned in March 2004 issue of Toxicology and Applied Pharmacology, suggests that certain early drug or chemical exposures can predispose people to particular ailments and threaten children may suffer cognitive deficits when their mothers were administered terbutaline during pregnancy.

The National Asthma Education and Prevention Program has recommended that terbutaline no longer be given to women with mild intermittent asthma while they are pregnant. As early as 1997 the FDA issued its first warning about the use of Terbutaline Sulfate for the treatment and prevention of preterm labor.

The Food and Drug Administration approved Terbutaline sulfate for the treatment of asthma but it is given subcutaneously to pregnant women to stop early labor. The use of terbutaline sulfate to treat preterm labor is an unapproved or "off-label" use. Premature labor occurs with a frequency of about 20 percent in an estimated 1 million women annually who are treated with terbutaline to stop early contractions, then pass to the unborn baby and impair brain and cognitive development.