Treatment cost for newborns exposed to opioids increased in US — Study

Treatment costs for newborns exposed to opioids increased US
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A study has revealed that the cost of treatment for newborns in US hospitals who were exposed to opioids increased to $572.7 million.

The study, published in the Journal of the America Medical Association Pediatrics, showed that the cost of treatment for newborns exposed to opioids while in utero has increased by over $250 million from $316 million in 2012 to $572.7 million in 2016.

According to the study, newborns with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) were hospitalized an average of 15.9 days, costing an average of $22,550 per infant in 2016.

It stated: “In 2016, Medicaid was responsible for 83% of charges for in-hospital births with an NAS diagnosis, indicating that state and federal budgets may continue to bear disproportionate costs as the opioid crisis evolves.”

Moreover, the researchers found that the rate of NAS births has significantly increase over the years. In 2004, the rate of NAS was at 1.5 in every 1,000 hospital births but this has increased to 6.7 cases of NAS for every 1,000 hospital births in 2016.


NAS happens when newborn babies experience withdrawal after being exposed to drugs in the womb. Among the effective ways to prevent NAS are improving preconception health care and educating both patients and providers about the appropriate use of prescription drugs during pregnancy.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), opioid use during pregnancy could lead to maternal mortality and risk of overdose for the mother and risks of preterm birth, low birth weight, breathing problems and feeding problems for the infant.

In order to address this, the CDC issued guidance on opioid prescribing for chronic pain, including that for pregnant women. It also conducted surveillance via the Pregnancy Risk Assessment Monitoring System (PRAMS) to take not of substance use prior and during pregnancy among mothers who recently gave birth.

Data from the US Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) indicated that around 10.3 million Americans aged 12 and older misused opioids in 2018, which included 9.9 million prescription pain reliever abusers and 808,000 heroin users. In 2016 and 2017, over 130 deaths were recorded daily from opioid-related drug overdoses.