CLEVELAND, Sept. 25, 2018 /PRNewswire/ -- Actions taken by the Opioid Justice Team, a legal-medical-child advocacy partnership over the past month are calling into question exactly how best to craft a master settlement agreement within Multi-District Litigation now being negotiated by a federal judge in Cleveland, Ohio as it concerns the growing number of opioid-dependent newborns resulting from America's synthetic drug crisis.
"We're using every arrow in our legal quiver," said Attorney Celeste Brustowicz. "The rate of children being born who are repeatedly exposed to opiate drugs in the mother's womb is growing by seven percent a year, and that is a conservative estimate according to medical experts."
Thus, a coalition of attorneys and medical experts advocating on behalf of opioid-dependent infants born and afflicted with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) are petitioning to have a new and separate legal track or MDL created just for the long-term care of this special class of citizens.
Last month, a class action filed in Ohio on behalf of NAS babies asked to be removed from the current MDL. West Virginia attorneys filed a supporting brief to this action. In May, a request to include a NAS Baby track within the existing MDL was rejected by the federal Judge charged with control over the growing claims against opioid manufacturers and distributors.
The argument advanced in this latest legal filing is that NAS babies and their caregivers will face a life-time of medical monitoring and specialized care because of opioid exposure in the womb. Medical experts Dr. Kanwaljeet S. Anand of Stanford University and Dr. Charles Werntz of West Virginia University argue that it is important to treat the NAS child as quickly as possible to promote the child's long-term growth and development. Non-profits, like the organization Facing Addiction with NCADD, agree.
Testimony by these Doctors document that the effects of opioid use during pregnancy increase the chances of premature births, low birth weights, growth retardation, and birth defects. The long-term impacts are DNA damage to the child, multiple physical and mental development defects, and the increased likelihood the child will be placed in foster care of some sort.
This week's filing requests a new and separate MDL be created by the federal judge in Ohio in order to provide a medical monitoring trust fund for NAS babies.
"This gives NAS babies their own voice, it prevents competition between these children's needs and other government or hospital costs created by the opioid crisis, and it puts the financial responsibility for the hardships facing these children and their caregivers on Big Pharma, not on the nation's taxpayers or cash-strapped government budgets," said Ms. Brustowicz.
"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 NAS, but arrangements for their short-term and long-term care have been ignored until now. These babies need strong advocacy and legal action to ensure that their rights are protected, and that they urgently receive essential medical care and rehabilitation. On average, one infant with NAS is hospitalized every hour in the U.S."
Named as defendants in the class actions are an array of pharmaceutical manufacturers, distributors and retailers, all of whom netted billions of dollars due to unfair and deceptive trade practices that preyed on all Americans, including the unborn, say the attorneys.
"As the parameters of the opioid epidemic are becoming clearer and clearer, it is clear a medical-legal-civic partnership is needed to insure the the long-term impact of this industry-created problem on children in the womb is addressed," said Lead Counsel Scott R. Bickford. "The current MDL seems woefully inadequate in giving these children their due. We must fight to change that."
Find out about these issues here: http://opioidjusticeteam.com/opioid-infants/
Attorneys: Scott Bickford (504) 581-9065 or Celeste Brustowicz (504) 399-0009
Media: Peter Mirijanian (202) 464-8803 or C. Brylski/D. Johnson (504) 897-6110
SOURCE Opioid Justice Team