It’s no secret that opioid painkillers are destroying American lives every day. Our nation’s opioid crisis has been declared a national public health emergency, and more and more cities, counties, and states are filing major lawsuits against the manufacturers and distributors of prescription painkillers every week.
The drugs being targeted by these opioid lawsuits are the ones that get commonly prescribed every day. They’re names we’re all familiar with—oxycodone (OxyContin and Percocet), hydrocodone (Vicodin), morphine, and fentanyl. All are legal and heavily controlled, but still widely available. Some, like fentanyl, are even illegally manufactured and traded.
When most of us think about the consequences of becoming addicted to opioid painkillers, we think about life-altering withdrawal symptoms, dangerous side effects, the inability to get relief from chronic pain, and the possibility of relapse. The risk of relapse, especially, is extremely dangerous when it comes to opioids since it’s estimated that 3 out of 4 heroin users start out using prescription opioids.
One consequence many of us don’t consider, however, is the risk of an expecting mother damaging a newborn due to regularly taking opioid painkillers over the course of a pregnancy term. Expecting mothers and newborn children, historically, have been left out of almost every research study about the long-term effects of opioid use. Most doctors and expecting mothers, as a result, assumed that opioid use is considered safe during pregnancy.
Recent research is now suggesting differently. According to data from almost 230,000 pregnancies, birth defects may have a higher chance of occurring in newborns born from mothers who are dependent on prescription opioid painkillers. Birth defects which may occur more often include congenital heart defects, neural tube defects (defects of the brain, spinal cord, or spine), and clubfoot. These defects cause significant lifelong impairment to a child and many result in death.
In addition, a second study on pregnant women between 1998 and 2011 revealed that opioid-dependent pregnant women are almost 5 times as likely to die during childbirth, have longer hospitalization stays on average, and give birth to children who are twice as likely to be delivered stillborn or suffer from poor growth rates.
Birth defects, while rare, can often be prevented. Many birth defects occur due to malnutrition, environmental issues, or poor health conditions the mother experiences while pregnant. Others occur as a result of a birth injury that happens during the pregnancy term or during delivery. The only way to prevent birth defects is to know and understand what causes them.
In the case of birth defects caused by opioid dependence, it’s obvious that any defects caused could have and should have been prevented. Why weren’t the long-term effects of opioid use studied in expecting mothers and their newborns? Why did opioid manufacturers market prescription opioids for expecting mothers when they did not know how they might affect a developing fetus?
These questions are ones we need to be asking ourselves now more than ever in a time when opioid addiction and overdoses are both at all-time highs. Drug manufacturers have a legal responsibility to thoroughly test their medications and warn doctors and patients alike about potential side effects and problems that may arise. When they fail to do so, we can take legal action against these companies.
That’s why there are currently over 60 pending lawsuits targeting prescription opioid manufacturers and distributers. If you or someone you love gave birth to a child who suffered from birth defects which you feel may have been caused by opioid use, it’s not too late to join the current pending lawsuits.
For more information, contact Thomas Law Offices today. With our help, you can have a voice against opioid manufacturers that prioritized profit over the health and safety of victims nationwide. Our Louisville opioid litigation team is ready to assist you and tell you the merits of your potential claim today.