The United States is currently coping with a massive opioid epidemic. Often overlooked are its youngest victims: babies who are exposed to opioids in utero and then are born with an opioid drug dependence. Parents and families with an opioid addicted baby are seeking compensation through filing opioid lawsuits against pharmaceutical manufacturers. This section offers a comprehensive look at opioid dependence and withdrawal in newborn babies.
As more and more Americans began taking opioid drugs in the 21st century, the number of babies born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome from opioid exposure in utero rose. In the fifteen year span stretching from 1999 to 2014, opioid prescriptions quadrupled. This had a direct impact on the health of newborn babies in the United States: in the same time span, the number of babies born with NAS tripled. Based on data from a selection of U.S. states, an opioid addicted baby is born every 20 minutes.
Many may be quick to blame pregnant mothers for this tragic situation, but that view naively overlooks several important facts. First, many mothers were prescribed opioids by their doctor to address some type of chronic pain. They deserved pain relief. Second, the opioid industry categorically downplayed the risk of addiction in its marketing of opioid drugs. Evidence shows industry executives were aware of the risk but did not adequately warn consumers or physicians. Third, pharmaceutical companies profited while families suffered. In many cases, a justifiable need for pain relief spiraled into a life-destroying addiction. Babies born dependent on opioids are yet another victim of the pharmaceutical industry’s greed.
Any drug a mother takes while pregnant may have an effect on her growing fetus. In the case of opioid addicted babies, the fetus develops a dependency on the substance and suffers from withdrawal from the substance leaves its system in the hours and days following birth. The degree to which a newborn is affected by NAS is related to its gestation (premature babies are thought to suffer fewer symptoms and recover more quickly), what the mother took, and how recently the last dose occurred prior to the baby’s birth.
Symptoms of withdrawal may surface in the first day or two of the newborn’s life, or may not appear until several days later. Neonatal abstinence syndrome includes withdrawal symptoms for 4-6 months, and often also results in developmental delays as the baby advances well into childhood.
Babies with NAS are often quickly identified by their high pitch, pervasive cries. Swaddling and comfort measures may help; other types of treatment for neonatal abstinence syndrome include giving small doses of the substance and gradually weaning the baby off. Babies born with NAS from opioids are often underweight, premature, and may suffer from birth defects, ADD, behavioral problems, and developmental delays.
Quite often, mothers of babies born with NAS first took opioid painkillers for legitimate reasons such as chronic pain following wreck or other traumatic injury. Pharmaceutical companies didnâ€™t paint a clear picture of the dangers and consequences of opioid addiction. Many patients took these drugs unaware they could become addicted, then later became pregnant, resulting in a child born with NAS. Today, opioid manufacturers are facing tough questions as to why the public was not fairly and clearly warned about the risk of addiction. Opioid addicted babies are among the most vulnerable victims of the American opioid crisis; at the expense of innocent families, pharmaceutical manufacturers reaped the profits for decades.
When corporate greed harms children and their families, our attorneys are committed to achieving justice no matter how complex the case. Through settlements and winning verdicts, our attorneys have obtained millions for our clients. Let us help you today.
The most effective means individuals have for holding a pharmaceutical company accountable for public safety is filing a lawsuit for harm done to your family. Filing an opioid lawsuit can yield real compensation for medical expenses, suffering and loss. Contact us today for a free consultation.