More than 20 drug companies were hit with a proposed class action brought by dozens of children who were born addicted to opioid painkillers, a condition known as Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, or NAS. The latest attack in the fight to curb the opioid epidemic blames the pharmaceutical companies for ignoring regulations in order to increase their profits, which allowed the drugs into the black market, further fueling the nation’s opioid crisis.
According to the 95-page complaint, the number of babies born addicted to opioids in the United States has jumped from 1.2 per 1,000 babies in 2000 to 5.8 per 1,000 in 2012. In West Virginia alone, more than 50 babies per 1,000 live births are born with NAS.
Babies born with NAS suffer symptoms such as tremors or seizures, fussiness and excessive crying, slow weight gain, fever, trouble sleeping, diarrhea or vomiting, and congestion. They are also at greater risk of being born low birthweight and jaundiced.
Long-term complications include behavioral and cognitive problems, developmental delays, motor delays, and hearing or vision impairment. They are also at greater risk of child abuse and neglect, future drug use, sudden infant death syndrome, and sudden unexpected infant death. Oftentimes, babies born with NAS are forced into foster care.
According to the complaint, the drug companies named in the lawsuit failed in their responsibility to reduce opioid diversion by consciously ignoring red flags in their supply chains that their drugs were being misused and abused.
The lawsuit seeks compensation, injunctive relief and medical monitoring for children with NAS.