Babies born addicted to opioids after being exposed to the drugs in their mothers’ wombs will not get a separate track in the multidistrict litigation (MDL) blaming opioid manufacturers, distributors and pharmacies of fueling the opioid epidemic, the Ohio federal judge overseeing the litigation ruled.
Attorneys representing the so-called opioid babies argued in May that their clients deserved a special track in the MDL to address their special medical needs, such as long-term cognitive impairments. But U.S. District Judge Dan Aaron Polster denied the request.
The complicated multidistrict litigation includes various local governments as well as Native American tribes, each seeking compensation for overdose deaths and economic damages sustained as a result of the companies’ reckless marketing of the drugs creating an opioid crisis.
The separate track would have provided babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome, or NAS, with a trust to fund treatment and research related to the syndrome, as well as direct compensation to victims to cover out-of-pocket costs for opioid-weaning treatments required for babies born addicted.
NAS is a condition caused when a baby withdraws from certain drugs he has been exposed to in the womb before birth. Babies born with NAS can suffer symptoms such as body tremors, seizures, twitching and tight muscles; fussiness, excessive crying or having a high-pitched cry; poor feeding or sucking, or slow weigh gain; breathing problems; fever, sweating or blotchy skin; trouble sleeping; and diarrhea or vomiting.
Hospitalization for babies with NAS averages 16 days, and medical costs for these babies ring up $159,000 to $238,000 higher than those of healthy newborns.