I traveled to Ft. Lauderdale this past weekend for Mass Tort Nexus’, “Opioid Crisis Summit”. This summit assembled a group of politicians, law makers, law enforcement officials, advocates, physicians with specialties in opioid addiction, opioid epidemic experts, public officials, lawyers and other specialists in addiction treatment.
I was honored to be asked to speak at the event on the heartbreaking topic of babies born addicted to or in withdrawal from opioids. This condition is known in the medical community as NAS, or Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome. I wanted to bring to light the emotional and financial struggles that babies and their families (often times foster parents or grandparents) face as the result of being born to a mother addicted to opiates. So often this was a woman who was given legitimate prescriptions for drugs such as oxycodone (OxyContin), methadone, buprenorphine, or codeine but who had no idea of the addictive nature of these dangerous drugs
The event was well-attended, informative and productive. Other speakers also included representatives from the Amy Winehouse Project and S.A.F.E. (a US Admiral’s (ret) foundation that brings education to all interested in the opioid epidemic as a tribute to the son that they lost to an overdose).
The conference attendees hope to work together in the future to bring justice to those who have suffered as the result of drug companies, distributors and their sales representatives who are alleged to have mislead the FDA and/or the medical community, mass-marketed dangerous opioids to doctors and hospitals and the general public with massive campaigns of miseducation and false claims. Attorneys are representing cities, counties, Native American Tribes and municipalities who have sued opioid pharmaceutical companies and distributors, among others alleging that they should be held responsible for the tremendous financial burdens faced as the result of the drug epidemic. Other attorneys are investigating claims for hospitals who face similar financial burdens as their emergency rooms and neo-natal units (NICUs) are brimming with addiction-related medical conditions – largely uninsured medical conditions. Finally, lawyers are also pursuing cases for individual addicts and babies with NAS whose lives have been forever impacted or destroyed.