The cost of opioid use during pregnancy

A new study published today by the scientific journal Addiction reveals that the incidence of neonatal abstinence syndrome — often caused by mothers using opioids during pregnancy — is increasing in the United States, and carries an enormous burden in terms of hospital days and costs. The number of US hospital admissions involving neonatal abstinence syndrome increased more than fourfold between the years 2003 and 2012. In 2012, neonatal abstinence syndrome cost nearly $316 million in the United States.

Neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) is a constellation of symptoms that occur in newborn infants exposed to addictive illegal or prescription drugs in utero. Infants affected by NAS typically show a number of neurological symptoms and behaviors (e.g., tremors, seizures) as well as poor feeding and gastrointestinal dysfunction. Standard management of NAS involves the administration of opioids for opioid withdrawal, with additional medications for stubborn cases or instances of multi-drug exposure. This drug administration has been performed traditionally in the hospital setting, consuming valuable and finite hospital resources.

Full story of opioid use during pregnancy at Science Daily

Senators Draft Law Aimed at Helping Parents Addicted to Opioids Raise Their Infants

Two senators on the Senate Finance Committee said Tuesday they are drafting legislation that would let states use federal foster care funds to help parents who are addicted to opioids raise their babies, Reuters reports.

Committee Chair Orrin Hatch of Utah, a Republican, and Ron Wyden of Oregon, a Democrat, said the measure, called the Family First Act, would be part of a comprehensive effort to address the opioid crisis by increasing prevention, treatment and law enforcement.

Senator Wyden cited a recent Reuters investigation of 110 preventable deaths of babies sent home with parents who were addicted to opioids.

The number of babies treated for the drug-withdrawal syndrome known as neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) has almost quadrupled in the last decade, according to a study published last year.

Full story of law to help parents and addiction to opioids at drugfree.org

Inquiry Looks at Compliance With Federal Law Protecting Drug-Dependent Newborns

A U.S. House committee is launching an inquiry into the federal government’s enforcement of a law designed to protect drug-dependent newborns.

The inquiry, launched by Representative John Kline of Minnesota, is in response to aReuters investigation that found 110 cases of babies and toddlers whose mothers used opioids during pregnancy, and later died preventable deaths.

In each case, the babies recovered enough to be discharged from the hospital, but were sent home to families not equipped to care for them.

The number of babies treated for the drug-withdrawal syndrome known as neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) has almost quadrupled in the last decade, according to a last year.

Full story of inquiry into drug-dependent newborns at drugfree.org

High Prescribing Rates Likely Factor in Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome Increase: Expert

High prescribing rates of opioid painkillers are likely a factor in the increase in neonatal abstinence syndrome, according to the head of the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Dr. Nora Volkow wrote in this week’s British Medical Journal that between 2000 and 2009, the incidence of neonatal abstinence syndrome among newborns increased from 1.2 to 3.4 per 1,000 live births.

An estimated 14 percent to 22 percent of pregnant women in the United States are prescribed opioid painkillers, HealthDay reports. There have been reports of an increase in the rate of painkiller abuse among pregnant women, the article notes.

Babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome undergo withdrawal from the addictive drugs their mothers took during pregnancy, such as oxycodone, morphine or hydrocodone. The syndrome affected seven babies for every 1,000 admitted to a neonatal intensive care unit in 2004. That number jumped to 27 infants per 1,000 by 2013.

Full story of neonatal abstinence syndrome increase at drugfree.org

Costs Rise for Treating Babies Born to Mothers Addicted to Painkillers

As more babies are born to mothers who are addicted to prescription painkillers, the costs related to diagnosis and treatment of these infants are rising, according to a new report.

The study looked at newborns born at a Florida hospital over three years. The researchers found about 50 to 60 percent of babies born to mothers addicted to painkillers developed symptoms and complications related to withdrawal from opioid pain medication, known as neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS).

In the first year of the study, 40 babies were born exposed to painkillers. That number rose to 57 in the second year and 63 in the third year, HealthDay reports. Babies who developed NAS stayed in the hospital an average of 23 days, compared with five days for painkiller-exposed babies who did not develop NAS.

Full story of costs treating babies born from mothers and addiction at drugfree.org