MEDICAL-LEGAL TEAM MOVES TO PROTECT AND HELP OPIOID AFFECTED INFANTS AND CHILDREN IN NEW YORK
Attorneys: Don Creadore (212) 355-7200 and National NAS Co-Counsel Scott Bickford (504) 581-9065
Media: Peter Mirijanian (202) 464-8803; or C. Brylski/D. Johnson (504) 897-6110
An opioid-addicted baby is born in the United States at least every 25 minutes, and with opioid-addicted mothers becoming a growing reality in New York State, a medical-legal team is joining eight other states in filing a class action lawsuit to protect the long-term interests and costs of care for the infants and guardians of opioid-addicted babies, said Attorney Don Creadore.
“In my entire legal career, I have worked on no other matter which has such far-reaching societal impacts as the babies and children resulting from the nation’s opioid epidemic,” said Attorney Creadore.
The class action lawsuit is filed on behalf of all children afflicted with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) born in New York because their mothers consumed opioids during pregnancy. NAS is a clinical diagnosis and a consequence of the abrupt discontinuation of chronic fetal exposure to substances that were used or abused by the mother during pregnancy.
The plaintiff in the case is a Niagara County guardian for Baby C.E., a child born 13 months ago with severe withdrawal symptoms and facing permanent developmental issues to the opioid use of the mother. The baby’s doctors predict Baby C.E. will require years of treatment and counseling at untold expense. Baby C.E.’s mother was prescribed opioids before pregnancy and became addicted.
Baby C.E. is representative of the 8.5 per 1000 NAS babies born to pregnant women who used opioids in New York State, an incidence that has grown from 1.9 per 1000 births in the last 10 years, according to the New York State Department of Health. Moreover, out of every five Medicaid-served mothers consumed opioids at some point during their pregnancy resulting in addicted babies, according to the medical-legal team seeking to treat and protect the opioid dependent babies, children and youth. The latest Centers for Disease Control report on this issue is available here: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/67/wr/pdfs/mm6731a1-H.pdf
“As someone who is fighting to save people from opioid addiction, there is no issue more important than protecting the babies and children resulting from this national plague,” said Dr. Sanjay Gupta, President, American Pain Association. “It is high time that the medical and legal communities stand up to demand comprehensive treatment and care for the most needy and innocent citizens of our great country.”
Attorney Scott Bickford, nationwide co-lead NAS counsel added, “It has become our mission to make sure this does not become another tobacco-style settlement where only three percent of the funds awarded from that litigation went to actual tobacco victims. We want to make sure that our most vulnerable citizens get redress and assistance from this conspiracy designed by the nation’s drug industry.”
Agreeing is Kanwaljeet J. S. "Sunny" Anand, the nation’s foremost expert on opioids in infants and a Professor of Pediatrics, Anesthesiology, Perioperative & Pain Medicine at Stanford University School of Medicine.
“Newborn babies are the most vulnerable citizens in the opioid problems sweeping our nation; their lives and developmental potential are disrupted by Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS), but arrangements for their short-term and long-term care have been ignored until now. Babies like C.E. need strong advocacy and legal action to ensure that their rights are protected, and that they urgently receive essential medical care and rehabilitation,” said Dr. Anand.
“The worst part of the growing opioid addiction problem in America is that it has unintended victims: the unborn and children of parents who became unwitting users due to over-prescribing of these meds for everyday pain,” said Dr. Brent Bell, one of the lead medical experts in the team which filed the suit in New York’s Supreme Court of Niagara County.
“We are seeking to make the child victims of opioid addiction, to the greatest extent possible, whole,” said Attorney Creadore. “But that is only part of it. We have an obligation to bring forward this class action to eliminate the hazard to public health and safety caused by the opioid epidemic and to hold fully responsible those whose actions created this crisis.”
Named as defendants in the suit are an array of pharmaceutical manufacturers, distributors and retailers, all of whom netted millions if not billions of dollars due to unfair and deceptive trade practices that preyed on all Americans, including the unborn, said Mr. Creadore. To establish and exploit the lucrative market of chronic pain patients, the defendants developed a well-funded, sophisticated, and deceptive marketing and/or distribution scheme targeted at consumers and physicians, according to the suit.
"Facts show that pharmaceutical drug companies and their distribution partners exaggerated the benefits of opioids and downplayed risks and consequences,” said Mr. Creadore. “They knew the drugs were being overly-prescribed yet failed to warn doctors of the extremely addictive nature of the narcotics and the need to strictly limit and monitor the dose.”
Average hospitalization for NAS babies studied between 2008-2011 was 23 days for opioid addicted newborns, compared to 1-2 days for other newborns. A 2015 review of data showed costs for medical treatment while hospitalized exceeded $200,000 per newborn, with yearly treatment costs pushing $2 million by the third year per child.
The lawsuit argues that access to treatment services are woefully insufficient to meaningfully improve outcomes related to opioid addiction abatement, noting that the 2012 National Survey of Substance Abuse Treatment Services data indicate that only a small percent of hospital or outpatient-only substance abuse treatment facilities and residential treatment facilities offered special programs for pregnant/postpartum women.
“The only way we will ever be able to truly win the war against opioid addiction and those who have profited from the production, distribution and sale of opioids is through providing access to various treatment options,” said Dr. Gupta. “Hospitals and drug rehabilitation centers must have the means necessary to address addiction. That is the only way we can hope to end this crisis.
“Over more than 500,000 Americans have died with this deadly epidemic since its start a decade ago. Besides the number of deaths, the disability and impairment of people and families is far beyond this number. Unfortunately, the blame of these deaths and disabilities have been shifted to the mental health problems of these innocent patients and families. The truth is the patients and families are the victims and not the problem. Helping these patients and these families is the top priority of the American Pain Association and the lawyers of the Opioid Justice Team.”
A website, OpioidJusticeTeam.com, lists all similar NAS class actions now filed in the U.S.
To download the lawsuit: