Following surgery or serious injury, doctors often prescribe opioids to help ease pain that ranges from moderate to severe. Used as prescribed for a brief time period, the medication is generally safe. However, if a pregnant woman becomes addicted to prescribed painkillers, her unborn baby could develop a very serious health condition or even lose its life through miscarriage.
According to a government report created in 2016, the number of infants born addicted to opioids as a result of their mothers’ use tripled in this country between the years of 1999 and 2013. Using opioids while pregnant not only causes an increased risk of low birth weight, premature birth, or birth defects, it can also lead to critical opioid withdrawal trauma called neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) in the newborn. The horrible consequences of the syndrome include developmental delays, behavior issues, breathing problems, and an undeveloped liver.
If your child was born with neonatal abstinence syndrome from your use of doctor-prescribed opioids while pregnant, you may have sufficient cause to file a lawsuit for damages. A number of lawsuits are already in the court system accusing opioid manufacturers of downplaying the dependency dangers of painkillers like hydrocodone, tramadol, oxycodone, and others.
What is Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS)?
When a woman uses medications like fentanyl, codeine, methadone, or oxycodone (OxyContin) while pregnant, these drugs pass through the placenta and to the baby in the womb. When the infant is born, he or she still has a dependency on the drug, but none is being supplied, resulting in overstimulation of the baby’s tiny nervous system. Neonatal abstinence syndrome is the name given to the group of awful conditions the infant experiences, often requiring further hospitalization and treatment.
Symptoms and Signs of NAS
The symptoms and signs of NAS displayed after birth can vary since each baby will react differently. In addition, the specific drug used by the mother during pregnancy also makes a difference in the baby’s resultant withdrawal issues. Withdrawal symptoms can appear as late as 10 days or as early as 24 hours after birth.
Common NAS symptoms include:
- High-pitched crying
- Breathing issues
- Sleep problems
- Excessive crying and irritability
- Difficulty eating
- Stuffy nose or sneezing
- Fever or unstable temperatures
- Hyperactive reflexes
- Excessive yawning
- Tight muscle tone
- Blotchy skin or sweating
A low birth weight of less than five pounds and eight ounces is not uncommon in cases of NAS. In addition, the infant’s eyes and skin may show a yellow tone as the result of jaundice from an undeveloped or improperly working liver. Severe cases of NAS may require hospital time and treatment in a newborn intensive care unit for round-the-clock care.
If you see your baby’s symptoms in the list above, immediately seek medical attention for your child. The health care provider will determine specific treatment for your infant based on the gestation of your pregnancy, depending on whether it was full-term or if you had a premature delivery. The physician will evaluate your baby’s medical history, overall health, extent of the disease, and tolerance for therapies, procedures and medications.
Research is still being conducted regarding NAS, and the long-term effects are not completely known yet. However, this health complication is completely preventable. So, if your baby was born addicted to opioids, you should immediately contact a legal professional for a consultation.
Our team of experienced drug injury lawyers offer a free case evaluation. Find out if you may be able to receive compensation for the negligent prescribing of powerful painkillers. You may be entitled to file a neonatal abstinence syndrome lawsuit that can help pay for medical expenses and other damages. In addition, future expenses and damages may be covered as well.
Class Action Lawsuits Filed
While claiming that the long-term risks of prescription opioid use have been grossly misrepresented by manufacturers, over 1,000 adversely affected individuals have filed lawsuits in the U.S. for damages. Various states in which suits are filed include Kentucky, Ohio, Illinois, West Virginia, Washington, and California.
The year 2017 saw a consolidation of these lawsuits into multidistrict litigation, or MDL, that will have one Northern District of Ohio federal judge overseeing it. There were 1,513 cases included in the MDL as of November 2018. There are also allegations contained within the lawsuits that blame distributors of these dangerous drugs for not properly monitoring suspiciously large orders, thus helping to contribute to the massive opioid epidemic.
NAS lawsuits are also pending over infants who have health problems stemming from their exposure to opioids before birth. In February 2018, a class action suit was filed in the state of Louisiana for children born addicted to opioid drugs. The lawsuit aims to retrieve compensation for damages already suffered by the families and to also obtain funds to help cover lifelong medical costs for monitoring and treating these children. Named as defendants in the suit are opioid manufacturers, opioid distributors, and drug stores dispensing opioids.
The state of Pennsylvania saw a proposed class action suit filed in Philadelphia in August 2018. The opioid suit charges pharmaceutical companies with sparking the ensuing crisis through overly zealous marketing and the downplaying of severe risks of addiction.
If you took opioids while pregnant, and your newborn was born addicted, you may be able to pursue legal options. Contact our law firm to discuss the possibility of filing a lawsuit. The consultation is free, and there is no obligation.
Should You Pursue an Opioid Withdrawal Lawsuit?
Our legal team knows that opioid use can have devastating effects, both financially and emotionally, on families. If you have a child who was born suffering from neonatal abstinence syndrome, you could be legally able to hold the opioid manufacturers responsible. The highly skilled attorneys at KBA Attorneys can help inform you about your legal right to pursue compensation for the pain and suffering you and your child have experienced.
Contact us right away for a free consultation with no obligation. Our years of experience and our track record qualify us to help injury victims receive the highest level of compensation possible.
- March of Dimes. “Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS)”, March of Dimes, Accessed August 9, 2019.
- The Recovery Village. “Long-Term Effects of Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome”, The Recovery Village, Accessed August 9, 2019.
- Stanford’s Children Health. “Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome”, Stanford’s Children Health, Accessed August 9, 2019.
- Sara Randazzo. “In the Opioid Litigation, It’s Now States v. Cities”, The Wall Street Journal, Accessed August 9, 2019.
- WebMD. “Opioid (Narcotic) Pain Medications”, WebMD, Accessed August 9, 2019.
- Harry Nelson. “The Opioid Litigation: Settlements, Winners, and Losers”, Forbes, Accessed August 9, 2019.
- CDC. “Prescription Opioid Data”, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Accessed August 9, 2019.