NEW SARPY, LA (WVUE) - The opioid epidemic is not only deadly, but it causes many newborns to enter the world with withdrawal symptoms like tremors, the inability to eat and a shrill, constant cry. And now some prominent local attorneys are going after manufacturers and others in the opioid distribution pipeline.
"The opioid crisis is the single largest industry created health crisis that this country has seen," said attorney Scott Bickford.
He and others filed a class action lawsuit in St. Tammany Parish on behalf of Tyler M. Roach, on behalf of his minor child, as well as a class of babies statewide with neonatal abstinence syndrome or NAS.
"The plaintiff and class representative is Baby R. His mother became addicted to opioids when she, her husband and her 5-year old child were involved in a severe car accident," Bickford continued.
The lawyers said the woman became pregnant while still taking the potent prescription drugs.
"She chose to carry the child, who unfortunately was born addicted, like her, to opiates," Bickford stated.
The lawsuit not only seeks damages for families with babies born with NAS, but also funds for lifelong medical monitoring. The suit names among the long list of defendants, McKesson Corporation, John & Johnson and Allergan.
Pharmacies are targeted, too.
"Pharmacists have, under the law, obligations when dispensing narcotics such as opiates, particularly narcotics such as opiates, and the lawsuit alleges that they have violated their duties under the law because of the sheer volume of the opioids running through the pharmacies in Louisiana and out to patients," he said.
Last year, the state health department filed its own suit against a long list of companies, alleging that drug manufacturers "undertook an orchestrated campaign to flood Louisiana with highly addictive and dangerous opioids."
Mollye Demosthenidy is a health policy expert in Tulane's School of Public Health. She has not taken a position on the lawsuits.
"I think you're seeing states, parishes, counties, local governments, everybody's trying to figure out a way to tackle the epidemic, right? And that means tackling the consequences of addiction as well as addressing the sources of addiction," Demosthenidy said.
Of course, there are questions about the long-term impact on children born with NAS and the effect on society as a whole.
"There are a host of long-term costs related not just to the treatment but to the social safety net that's required to support children and families and really help communities that have been hit hard by the epidemic," Demosthenidy added.
"Baby "R" now suffers from developmental disorders," said Bickford.
The legal team and their medical advisers also said damages will be directed to academic and research institutions, long-term treatment centers and training for doctors and nurses.