Attorneys: Anna Villarreal 740-466-6408 (cell) 740-772-4466 (office) or Celeste Brustowicz (504) 399-0009
Media: Peter Mirijanian (202) 464-8803 or C. Brylski/D. Johnson (504) 897-6110
Medical: Dr. Brent Bell (832) 544-6034
- INFANT OPIOID ADDICTION CRISIS ADDRESSED BY GROUNDBREAKING LAWSUIT AND MEDICAL-LEGAL PARTNERSHIP
- Ohio filing joins actions in Missouri, Illinois, California, West Virginia, Tennessee and Louisiana on behalf of children who will need life-long care because of opioid-addicted pregnant moms
- Suit filed in Ross County Court of Common Pleas, Chillicothe, Ohio by Attorney Anna Villarreal
The class action suit on behalf of Erin Doyle and Baby D.F. and others similarly situated will address the need for the long-term costs of care and court-supervised medical monitoring due to the opioid drug abuse of the child’s 33-year-old mom; creates a medical-legal-social partnership to address the state’s growing addiction crisis now impacting children born and afflicted with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) because their mothers consumed opioids in Ohio 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.
- Families of children born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) face hardships due to the extenuating circumstances they find themselves subject to. These children, and their families need a voice, and need to be made whole.
- The mom of Baby D.F. was first prescribed opioid drugs after removal of her right eye due to melanoma and subsequent eye problems; this use led to later opioid drug abuse related to the eye problem. The mom used Suboxone during pregnancy because of her opioid drug abuse in the early stages of pregnancy. Baby. D.F. was born positive for synthetic opioid addiction and was placed on appropriate medical protocols for withdrawal.
Facts related to NAS:
- National studies of Medicaid-enrolled women by the Centers for Disease Control found that 21.6 percent filled at least one opioid prescription during pregnancy
- Every 19 minutes an opioid-addicted baby is born in this country
- Newborn babies experience side effects to include excessive crying, heavy sweating, diarrhea, tremors, convulsions, seizures, vomiting, difficulty sleeping, loss of appetite and pain as soon as 24 hours to 10 days after birth
- Methadone or Morphine is often needed to treat infant opioid withdrawal, known as Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome. Long-term side effects include Attention Deficit Disorder, cognitive deficits, growth delays, depression and behavioral problems, and life-long infertility or ability to function independently
This is the first lawsuit in Ohio to protect children of opioid-addicted parents filed. The suit seeks funds to treat and protect opioid-dependent babies, children and youth born in Ohio.
A key party to this team 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. “There is an unprecedented epidemic of opioid addiction sweeping across the U.S.,” said Dr. Anand. “Newborn babies are the most vulnerable citizens, 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 D.F. need strong advocacy and legal action to ensure that their rights are protected, and that they urgently receive essential medical care and rehabilitation. Use of prescription opioids during pregnancy increased from 1.2 to 5.6 per 1000 births per year, leading to sevenfold increases in the total NICU days attributed to NAS. On average, one infant with NAS is hospitalized every hour in the U.S.”
The plaintiff in the case is Erin Doyle, on behalf of D.F. and those similarly situated and born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome. D.F.'s mother's life was derailed by opioid addiction following a melanoma found in the mother’s right eye, which led to its removal and replacement with a prosthesis. The mom’s subsequent opioid drug abuse was related to the use of prescription opioids related to the eye problem. Due to the neurotoxic effect of opioids on the unborn child, D.F. was sent to NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) following birth. D.F. will forever face physical and mental deficiencies due to opioid exposure in his mother’s womb.
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, say the attorneys. 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. The lawsuit also 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 outpatient-only substance abuse treatment facilities and of residential treatment facilities offered special programs for pregnant/postpartum women; within hospital inpatient treatment facilities, a significantly smaller percentage offered special programs for pregnant/postpartum women.
“We are seeking to make the child victims of opioid addiction, to the greatest extent possible, whole,” said Ohio Attorney Anna Villarreal. “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. 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. 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.”