(PHILADELPHIA) - Thousands of infants each year have exposure to opioids before they are born. Over half of these infants are born with withdrawal symptoms severe enough to require opioid replacement treatment in the nursery. Such treatment is associated with long hospital stays which interferes with maternal/infant bonding. Now, a team of researchers at Thomas Jefferson University has tested a semi-synthetic opioid they say has the potential to improve the treatment of these newborns, which could save hundreds of millions in healthcare costs annually if future tests continue to show benefit.
In the October 6th online issue of Addiction, the researchers say that using buprenorphine in a dozen addicted infants was both safe and successful and reduced days of treatment by 40 percent, compared to use of morphine in 12 other infants randomized to this treatment. The difference was 23 days of treatment versus 38 days.
"Given further study, such a beneficial drug could provide a new standard of treatment in a field where a well-defined therapeutic approach doesn't exist," says the study's lead author, Walter Kraft, M.D., associate professor in the Department of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics at Jefferson.
"Not only do we think buprenorphine is an excellent choice to treat neonatal opioid withdrawal, but it may prove to also be cost effective," he says. "There are not good numbers to work with but we estimate up to 16,000 infants each year are at risk for the syndrome. If you assume the costs for this treatment are $2,000 a day over an average 30 days of hospitalization, annual charges for this treatment can be up to $1 billion."
"If we were to reduce hospital stay by just 20 percent, that would save $150 million," Dr. Kraft adds.
The investigative team, which includes experts in neonatology, addictions, clinical pharmacology and pediatric neurology are the first physicians to test buprenorphine in newborns. Buprenorphin
|Contact: Rick Cushman|
Thomas Jefferson University