Babies born addicted to opioids after being exposed to the drugs by pregnant women who misused and abused the powerful painkillers deserve a special legal track in the multidistrict litigation (MDL) blaming opioid makers, distributors and pharmacies for the opioid epidemic, attorneys representing the so-called “opioid babies” told an Ohio federal court.
Babies with neonatal abstinence syndrome deserve this separate track because their medical costs are distinct, the attorneys told U.S. District Judge Dan Aaron Polster, who is overseeing the MDL.
Neonatal abstinence syndrome, or NAS, is the result of the sudden discontinuation of fetal exposure to substances, like opioids, that were used or abused by the mother during pregnancy. Symptoms of NAS include seizures and long-term cognitive difficulties. Tens of thousands of infants are diagnosed with NAS in increasing numbers each year since 2000, when the opioid crisis in the U.S. began to grow in epidemic proportions.
The MDL primarily involves lawsuits brought by local governments – cities, counties and states – as well as Native American tribes, the latter of which are also seeking their own litigation track.
Attorneys representing NAS babies are seeking direct compensation for the victims to cover out-of-pocket costs for treatment after babies are born. Babies born with the syndrome are hospitalized for an average of 16 days, and generate hospital costs about $159,000 to $238,000 higher than healthy babies, the filing states.
The opioid MDL is centralized in the Northern District of Ohio, and is expected to to grow substantially as more plaintiffs and defendants are added. Those suing opioid manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies blame them for not warning about the highly addictive nature of the drugs, thus fueling the opioid epidemic.