Striking rise in prescription drug-exposed newborns; Florida offically launches Task Force

As newborn addiction to prescription medication — neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) — becomes more of a priority in hospitals, public health organizations and government, a new national study  published in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows the issue deserves the attention: the number of drug-exposed babies has tripled in just one decade.

The study found that between 2000 and 2009, the incidence of NAS among newborns increased from 1.20 to 3.39 per 1000 hospital births per year. Newborns with NAS were more likely than all other hospital births to have low birthweight and respiratory complications.

Hospital charges for newborns with NAS also rose — from $39,400 in 2000 to $53,400 in 2009.

In 2010, nearly nine out of every 1,000 babies born in Jacksonville and the four surrounding counties experienced newborn withdrawal, compared to six out of every 1,000 statewide. Long Neonatal Intensive Care Unit stays are the norm, as the babies can take days, weeks or months to fully detox.

Due to the high rates of NAS, a Statewide Task Force on Prescription Drug Abuse and Newborns was created through HB227 in the 2012 legislature. The Task Force, which met for the first time April 24, includes representatives from both Healthy Start and the March of Dimes (see below for a full list of Task Force members).

Pam Bondi, the state Attorney General who pushed for the creation of the Task Force, released as statement in response to the JAMA study: “This national study specifically refers to the establishment of Florida’s Task Force on Prescription Drug Abuse and Newborns, and I believe that we can become a model for the country on how to tackle this devastating health epidemic and protect newborns.”

Also related to this issue, the March of Dimes Florida Chapter is requesting proposals for a statewide summit, which will focus on effective strategies, services and programs that will address presciption drug use in pregnancy and NAS. The deadline for applications is May 31, 2012, and the summit must occur in the 2012 calendar year. More information is available here: Application Cover Sheet, Objectives, Activities and Outcomes Form, Application Guidelines, Grant Agreement and Budget Form.

Task Force Members:

  • Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi
  • State Surgeon General Dr. Steven L. Harris
  • Florida Department of Law Enforcement Commissioner Gerald M. Bailey
  • Agency for Health Care Administration Secretary Elizabeth Dudak
  • Department of Children & Families Secretary David Wilkins
  • Dr. Stephanie Haridopolos
  • March of Dimes Assistant State Director Keith Nash
  • Dr. Robert Yelverton
  • Pediatrix Medical Group Medical Director Dr. Kenneth Solomon
  • Florida Nurses Association Executive Director Willa Fuller
  • Dr. David Dixon
  • Senator Joe Negron
  • Representative Dana Young
  • BayCare Behavioral Health Executive Director Doug Leonardo
  • Healthy Start Executive Director Jane Murphy