Neonatal abstinence syndrome causes a wide array of symptoms including increased irritability, hypertonia, or heightened muscle tone, tremors, feeding intolerance, seizures, and respiratory distress. In addition, babies with the syndrome are more likely to be born with a low birthweight.
"You can often stand in the hallway and know which babies are experiencing withdrawal. They are irritable, their cries are different, and they appear uncomfortable," Patrick says.
The majority of the mothers of babies born with the syndrome were covered by Medicaid for health care costs. The average hospital bill for babies with the syndrome increased from $39,400 in 2000 to $53,400 in 2009, a 35 percent increase. By 2009, 77.6 percent of charges for babies with the syndrome were charged to Medicaid.
In Florida, where opiate pain reliever death now accounts for four times the number of deaths as illicit drugs, the number of newborns diagnosed with the syndrome has increase five-fold in the last six years. The Florida state House and Senate recently passed legislation to form a task force to evaluate the issue.
"Given that newborns with neonatal abstinence syndrome experience longer, often medically complex and costly initial hospitalizations, this study highlights the need for increased public health measures to reduce the number of babies exposed to opiate drugs," says Matthew M. Davis, M.D., M.A.P.P., associate professor in the Child Health Evaluation and Research Unit at the U-M Medical School, and associate professor of Public Policy at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. Davis is senior author on the paper and co-director of the Robert Wood Johnson Clinical Scholar Program at U-M.
"We hope that state leaders will call for more research into the data we've provided because the majority of hospital expendi
|Contact: Mary F. Masson|
University of Michigan Health System