Opioids and Birth Defects
HAVE YOU BEEN INJURED AFTER TAKING A PRESCRIPTION OPIOID DRUG?
Opioid painkillers have been mired in controversy, especially over the past decade. Hard to kick addictions as well as severe, life-threatening side effects have cast a dark shadow over their usage.
Like most pain medications, opioids contain a host of minor side effects, including:
- Dry mouth
- Slowed breathing
Opioid pain medications are extremely addictive and lead to thousands of overdose deaths each year in the United States. In 2015 alone, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) report that more than 15,000 people died from an opioid overdose. More than 1,000 people require treatment at an emergency room each day for prescription opioid abuse.
These potentially dangerous drugs come in many forms and brands. Here are a few examples of opioid prescription medications available on the market:
- Fentanyl (such as Actiq)
Opioid painkillers can have serious adverse reactions when taken with other medications. For example, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) released a warning in 2016 regarding the serious life-threatening side effects of taking opioid pain drugs with benzodiazepine medications. Benzodiazepines are central nervous system (CNS) depressing drugs oftentimes prescribed to treat insomnia, anxiety, panic disorders, and seizures. When used at the same time as opioid pain medications, risks include extreme sleepiness, respiratory depression, coma, and death.
A troubling fact is that between 2002 and 2014, patients receiving a prescription for both an opioid painkiller and a benzodiazepine drug increased by 41 percent — this translates to more than 2.5 million patients.
In addition, the link between opioids and birth defects cannot be ignored.
PRESCRIPTION OPIOID USE DURING PREGNANCY LINKED TO BIRTH DEFECTS
In 2014, a CDC study was published in the American Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology regarding the link between opioid painkillers and birth defects. Here are the main findings from the study:
- Opioid painkillers were linked to the following birth defects:
- Spina bifida
- Congenital heart defects
- Hypoplastic left heart syndrome
- Tetralogy of Fallot
- Pulmonary valve stenosis
- The use of the painkiller codeine during the first trimester of pregnancy has been linked to the occurrence of congenital heart defects.
- Although other studies have found an increased risk of cleft lip and palate when taking opioids during pregnancy, the findings of this study did not find a link.
- Newborns may experience withdrawal symptoms if their mothers took opioid medications during pregnancy.
- The greatest risk to the unborn children occurs during the first few weeks of the pregnancy.
WHAT IS NEONATAL ABSTINENCE SYNDROME?
Neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) occurs when a baby is exposed to opioid drugs prenatally and is characterized by problems a newborn baby experiences when withdrawing from exposure to narcotic drugs. According to Stanford Children’s Health, over half of babies exposed to opioids prenatally experience withdrawal symptoms following birth. Opioid-withdrawn newborns oftentimes experience symptoms for several months, including seizures. Birth defects, premature birth, and poor intrauterine growth may result from an expectant mother using opioids.
Symptoms and signs of NAS include:
- Excessive crying
- Poor feeding
CONTACT OUR EXPERIENCED DANGEROUS DRUG INJURY ATTORNEYS
If your child was born with injuries after you were prescribed opioid medications, contact Thomas J. Henry. Our experienced pharmaceutical drug litigation and birth defect injury lawyers are available 24/7, nights and weekends to evaluate your claim. You may be entitled to compensation for your damages if you or your newborn baby were harmed due to a dangerous opioid drug. Call us today for a free legal consultation.