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NEONATAL ABSTINENCE SYNDROME: THE OPIOID CRISIS HITS NEWBORNS WITH DEVASTATING EFFECT

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The prescription opioid epidemic has increasingly been in the news the last several years.  At this point, we all know the burden the increasing rate of opioid addiction has placed on government officials, medical professionals, and thousands of families as they grapple with the effects.  More and more, we are learning that the epidemic was fueled by the greed of drug companies and many lawsuits have been filed, attempting to hold them responsible for the strain on public services that opioid addiction has caused in recent years. However, drug companies are not the only entities being held accountable by injured parties, as some plaintiffs have begun filing suit against medical professionals, as well as wholesalers and pharmacy owners.

What has not gotten as much attention, but is perhaps the most tragic story of the opioid epidemic, is the toll taken on newborn babies.  Neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) is what happens when a baby is exposed to drugs in the womb before birth.  Babies born with NAS go through withdrawal as soon as they are born.  NAS leads to many complicating problems for these infants, including being born too small and having breathing and feeding problems.  Newborns with NAS require treatment in a neonatal intensive care unit after birth, often for weeks, to treat the withdrawal symptoms and the other problems associated with NAS.  Healthcare officials are only just now starting to figure out what sort of long term problems are associated with NAS, including behavioral, cognitive and developmental problems.

While many newborns are born with NAS because their mothers took illicit drugs, many others were actually prescribed opioid medication like oxycontin while pregnant.  It is alleged that drug manufacturers were telling doctors and other health care providers the prescriptions were safe for mothers with chronic pain, especially if discontinued after the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.  This is not true.  There are many developments in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, and use of opioids, even prescription opioids like oxycontin, can interfere with those.  Additionally, these companies exaggerated the benefits of opioid-based drugs, willfully allowed opioid-based drugs to enter the black market, and lobbied politicians and physicians to increase the use of opioids.

The costs associated with neonatal treatment and future therapies are enormous. Likewise, the emotional and psychological toll on those babies with NAS and the people responsible for their care into the future are incalculable.

However, there are now attempts to hold those responsible for these devastating effects to account. Cases are now being filed against the drug manufacturers and distributers of prescription opioids.  The judge overseeing the federal court cases against these companies has agreed to create a separate track in the Multi-District Litigation now pending.  Because of the devastating effect on the most vulnerable in our community, our children, Fox & Farley has determined to represent those children and families affected by NAS.  Please contact the dedicated lawyers at Fox & Farley by calling (866) 862-4855 to schedule an initial case evaluation today. Our skilled lawyers can assist you throughout each step of your case.

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