PDT Staff Writer
In 2011, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine visited Portsmouth and took a tour of the maternity ward at Southern Ohio Medical Center, where he was briefed on the number of babies that were born addicted to drugs.
“It cuts across all economic bounds,” DeWine said. “It is not a middle-class problem. It cuts all over the place geographically. The numbers I find to be quite staggering at this facility, but this facility is doing an absolute bang-up job. They are dealing with a problem in society that is not of their making.”
On Monday DeWine asked the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to begin labeling addictive prescription painkillers with warnings for expectant mothers. DeWine was one of 43 state and territorial attorneys general who signed a letter addressed to the FDA Monday calling for a “black box warning” on prescription painkiller packaging. The warning would alert pregnant women and their health care providers to the serious risks of narcotic drug use during pregnancy.
“A child born to a woman addicted to prescription drugs has a very high risk of being addicted as well,” DeWine said. “That infant doesn’t have a choice in the matter, but we want to remind expectant mothers that they do.”
According to the Journal of the American Medical Association, a study found that approximately one infant was born every hour in the United States with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome (NAS) caused by maternal opiate use. NAS is caused when infants suddenly lose their opioid drug supply at birth. NAS includes the malfunction of the autonomic nervous system, respiratory system, and gastrointestinal tract. Signs of withdrawal in a child can include abnormal sleep patterns, tremors, vomiting, hyperactivity and seizures.
“We have finally woke up in Ohio,” DeWine said in 2011. “Frankly it took us a while. I was not aware of the gravity of this problem, and I am an old prosecuting attorney. I have dealt with drug problems. But it was about two years ago when I was campaigning around the state. It was my wife, Fran, who first came back from Scioto County, came back from Adams County, came back from Lawrence County, where she was campaigning, she would tell me every night, ‘when you’re attorney general you have to do something about this problem.’”
Upon taking office in 2011, DeWine made the fight against prescription drug abuse a priority. DeWine was personally involved in coming to Scioto County and shutting down the pain clinics which went from 11 to zero during that time period. In that time, those with the Attorney General’s Office have been involved in the permanent license revocation of more than two dozen doctors and pharmacists who improperly prescribed prescription medication, the conviction of 13 doctors, pharmacists, traffickers and associates, and the seizure of more than $1.67 million worth of prescription pills
“By simply adding the proposed warning to prescription painkiller packaging, we hope to educate women about the danger of these drugs and remind them that abusing painkillers during pregnancy could be extremely dangerous for their child,” said DeWine.
Frank Lewis may be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 252, or firstname.lastname@example.org. For breaking news, follow Frank on Twitter @FrankLewisPDT.