As opioid epidemic continues, so do cases of infants born addicted

Published 7:25 pm Wednesday, June 14, 2017

A lawsuit filed on Tuesday by the District Attorneys of Tennessee’s 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Judicial Districts against a pharmaceutical company seeks to bring accountability for the opioid epidemic ravaging the region and also to raise awareness about Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome.
District Attorney General Tony Clark, who represents the 1st Judicial District, joined DA Barry Staubus from the 2nd District and DA Dan Armstrong for the 3rd District in filing the lawsuit in Sullivan County Circuit Court on Tuesday. Named as defendants in the lawsuit are prescription opioid manufacturer Purdue Pharma L.P., its related companies, Mallinckrodt PLC and Endo Pharmaceuticals. Also named as defendants are the Center Pointe Medical Clinic, LLC, located in Kingsport, and two convicted opioid dealers — Elizabeth Ann Bowers Campbell and Pamela Moore. The lawsuit lists a Carter County address in the Pinecrest community for defendant Campbell.
Listed among the plaintiffs in the lawsuit is “Baby Doe,” a child born suffering from NAS.
“Like thousands of children born every year, Plaintiff Baby Doe was born addicted to opioids. The first days of his life were spent in excruciating pain as doctors weaned him from his opioid addiction,” the lawsuit states. “Plaintiff Baby Doe’s mother fell victim to an epidemic that has ravaged Tennessee, causing immense suffering to those born addicted to opioids and costing tens of thousands of dollars to local governments forced to deal with the aftermath.”
According to data from the Tennessee Department of Health, Baby Doe’s condition is no longer an unusual occurrence in the state. In 2016, 1,002 cases of NAS were reported in Tennessee. “In the majority of NAS cases — 79.8 percent — at least one of the substances causing NAS was prescribed to the mother by a healthcare provider,” states a data sheet issued by the Tennessee Department of Health.
According to TDH information, the highest rates of NAS in 2016 occurred in the East, Northeast, and Upper Cumberland Health Regions, and in Sullivan County, which is listed as it’s own health region. Those areas include the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd Judicial Districts of the state.
The Northeast Region — which encompasses Carter, Johnson, Unicoi, Washington, Greene, Hawkins, and Hancock Counties — saw the highest NAS birth rate in the state during 2016. For every 1,000 births in the region, there was an average of 58.6 cases of NAS.
Sullivan County came in with the second-highest NAS birth rate, recording 50.5 NAS cases for each 1,000 births in the county.
The East Region — which includes Anderson, Blount, Campbell, Cocke, Hamblen, Loudon, Monroe, Morgan, Roane, and Sevier Counties — ranked the third highest region in the state, but their numbers were significantly lower than either the Northeast Region or Sullivan County. The East Region recorded 26.2 NAS cases per 1,000 births.
According to the Tennessee Department of Health, a variety of drug exposure methods are reported in NAS cases.
Out of the 1,002 NAS cases in 2016, 10.1 percent of the birth mothers had a legal prescription for an opioid medication which led to the child’s diagnosis with NAS. In 26.6 percent of the cases, the birth mother had obtained opioid medication illegally without a legitimate prescription.
Comparatively, only 8.2 percent of the NAS cases were linked to the legal use of a non-opioid prescription medication while 10.2 percent was linked to the use if non-opioid medication illegally without a prescription. A reported 2.6 percent of NAS cases were linked to heroin use, and 14.5 percent were linked to “other non-prescription substance.”

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