Opioids like OxyContin, Vicodin may cause Birth Defects: Study

A new study suggests that women may increase the risk of giving birth to a baby with a serious congenital birth defect by more than double when they use opioids such as OxyContin and Vicodin during pregnancy.

The study was published online by the journal Obstetrics and Gynecology, and was funded by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). According to researchers, women may increase the risk of having a child with a birth defect by up to 2.2 times when they use opioid painkillers while expecting.

To conduct the study, researchers evaluated date compiled by the ongoing Slone Epidemiology Center Birth Defects Study from 1998 to 2010. More than 7,400 mothers, 305 who gave birth to a child with neural tube defects, were interviewed.

Of the women studied, 1.6% used opioids during pregnancy but did not give birth to a child with birth defects, while 4% of expecting mothers who used opioids during pregnancy had children with serious congenital malformations. From their research, the scientists found that the use of opioids during pregnancy may result in 5.9 babies out of every 10,000 live births being born with neural tube defects.

Roughly one in every 1,000 babies born in the United States has a neural tube defect, making this the most common birth defect in this country. In most cases, an improperly closed neural tube causes a hole in the brain or in the spinal cord. Spina bifida is the most common neural tube birth defect.

There has been much recent discussion in the medical community regarding the abuse and overuse of opioid painkillers. In the United States, more people die every year from opioid overdoses than from illegal drugs and auto accidents. According to a recent poll, roughly 10% Americans admit to using prescription drugs. Of those Americans, 25% confess that they used the drugs to get high.

The CDC released a report in January 2012 that claimed painkiller overdoses have now become a “U.S. epidemic”, claiming that opioid overdoses claimed more lives in this country than heroin and cocaine combined since 2003. In another, more recent <a” href=”http://www.cdc.gov/vitalsigns/PrescriptionPainkillerOverdoses/” title=”CDC Report” target=”_blank”>report, the CDC states that American women are much more likely to abuse painkillers than men.

In light of these findings, the FDA mandated this week that long-acting opioids must carry a new boxed warning about use of these drugs during pregnancy, highlighting the risk of NOWS, or Neonatal Opioid Withdrawal Syndrome. This potentially life-threatening condition affects babies who were exposed to the drugs in the womb, and can lead to rapid breathing, poor breathing, and excessive, high-pitched crying.

At the Law Offices of Melinda J. Helbock, A.P.C., individuals whose babies were born with birth defects after exposure to dangerous drugs during pregnancy can learn more about theirpotential right to compensation for their damages such as medical expenses and pain and suffering. For more information on personal injury birth defect lawsuits, contact us to schedule a consultation.