Lawsuit Indicates Prenatal Opioid Exposure Resulted In Severe Withdrawal Symptoms, Developmental Impacts

According to allegations raised in a recently filed class action lawsuit, opioid drug manufacturers and several pharmacy chains caused the nationwide opioid epidemic, which has caused tens of thousands of babies to born suffering from excruciating drug withdrawal symptoms.

The complaint (PDF) was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio on July 7, seeking class action status on behalf of children who suffered prenatal exposure to opioids that resulted in withdrawal problems, teratogenic defects and developmental side effects; a collection of conditions known as neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS).

According to the lawsuits, all of the baby’s mothers were prescribed opioids prior to gestation, resulting in addiction and prenatal opioid exposures. The opioids at issue in the class action include Purdue Pharmaceuticals’ Oxycontin, Dilaudid and MS Contin; Cephalon’s Actiq and Fentora, Janssen’s Duragesic, Endo’s Percodan, Percocet, Opana, Oxycodone, Hydrocodon, and others; and Actavis’s Norco and Kadian.

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“Plaintiffs bring this class action to eliminate the hazard to public health and safety caused by the opioid epidemic and to abate the nuisance caused by Defendants’ false, negligent and unfair marketing and/or unlawful diversion of prescription opioids,” the lawsuit states. “Plaintiffs further seek the equitable relief of medical monitoring to provide this class of infants the monitoring of developmental issues that they each will almost inevitably confront as they grow older and injunctive relief aimed at reducing the chance of Plaintiffs and those similarly situated of becoming addicted to opioids.”

Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome On The Rise

In a study published in December 2019 in the medical journal JAMA Pediatrics, researchers indicate that the rates of NAS in the United States have increased from about 1.5 per 1,000 hospital births in 2004 to 8 per 1,000 hospital births in 2014.

The findings also indicated that hospital costs associated with treating neonatal abstinence syndrome problems from opioids in pregnancy have risen from $316 million in 2012 to $572.7 million in 2016, highlighting the increasing opioid epidemic over the four year period.

Opioid use during pregnancy is linked to serious consequences for both mother and child. It can cause maternal death and increases the risk of a mother overdosing. It can also increase the risk of preterm birth, lead to breathing problems and feeding problems, cause birth defects, cause developmental problems to the child later, and impair cognition.

An estimated 10.3 million Americans ages 12 and older misused opioids in 2018.


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