The prescription opioid crisis in America has led to a number of babies being born with what's known as Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS). Expectant mothers who expose their fetus to opioids of any kind face the risk of giving birth to a child with NAS. The syndrome is the result of withdrawal from the opioid pain medication.
Treating infants with NAS is complicated and requires trained medical personnel which can be costly. A new report has found that the costs of NAS treatment for babies have increased dramatically, Science Daily Reports.
"At our institution, costs associated with treating infants with NAS are exponentially higher than the costs associated with infants not affected," write Dr. Kay Roussos-Ross, Assistant Professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology, and colleagues of University of Florida College of Medicine, Gainesville.
The researchers analyzed cost trends for infants with NAS at one university-affiliated hospital between 2008 and 2011. Over the course of the three year study, Dr. Roussos-Ross and coauthors found 160 opioid-exposed newborns:
40 in the first year.
57 in the second year.
63 in the third year.
About 50 to 60 percent of opioid-exposed infants developed symptoms of NAS each year of the study, according to the article. Most of the babies (95) were exposed to "opioid agonist" medications, drugs like methadone and buprenorphine, which are given to pregnant women who have an opioid use disorder. The other 65 babies were exposed to prescription opioids used illicitly by their mothers during the pregnancy.
When compared to healthy infants, the researchers found that the cost of treating babies born with NAS is 15 to 16 times higher. Each year, the total costs for treating NAS increased dramatically, the article reports.
About $1.1 million in the first year.
$1.5 million in the second year.
$1.8 million in the third year.
Healthy babies typically spend one or two days in the hospital post-birth. Whereas, babies born with NAS are kept in the hospital for an average of 23 days. Babies that are exposed to opioids in utero that did not develop NAS stay in the hospital for about five days.
The findings were published in the Journal of Addiction Medicine.