WASHINGTON - The National Association of Attorneys General sent a letter Monday to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration urging it to require a so-called “black box warning” on prescription pain relievers in an effort to better protect newborns.

Such drugs, NAAG says, may cause Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome, or NAS. State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey is one of 43 attorneys general who signed the letter.

“Women who are pregnant need to understand the risks associated with taking prescription pain medicine to their unborn children,” Morrisey stated.

“The addition of a black box warning will help get the message out that the medication they are taking could have a serious impact on the health of their baby.”
NAS is caused when infants who have been exposed to opioids during pregnancy suddenly lose their drug supply at birth.

Opioid analgesics relieve pain without causing loss of consciousness. Codeine, hydrocodone and oxycodone fall into this medication class.

Signs of withdrawal in infants can include tremors, vomiting and hyperactivity.

“The drug abuse problem is crippling so many West Virginia families and communities,” Morrisey said.

“But it will be virtually impossible to remedy this plague if babies from their very first breath are fighting off addiction. We need to take every step we can to fight this battle.”

NAS cases are rising nationwide at an alarming rate, the attorneys general argue.

“As the use of prescription opioid analgesics increases, so do the instances of NAS,” says to NAAG’s letter, addressed to Dr. Margaret Hamburg.

“We therefore believe that a ‘black box warning’ for these medications would help ensure that women of childbearing age -- as well as their health care providers -- are aware of the serious risks associated with narcotic use during pregnancy.”

From the West Virginia Record: Reach Jessica Karmasek by email at jessica@legalnewsline.com.

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