Opioids Withdrawal in Babies Adding Millions To Health Care Costs

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:

Tammy E. Corr, D.O. Assistant Professor of Pediatrics Division of Newborn Medicine Penn State Hershey College of Medicine

Dr. Corr

Tammy E. Corr, D.O.
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics
Division of Newborn Medicine
Penn State Hershey College of Medicine

MedicalResearch.com: What is the background for this study?

Response: Recent literature has revealed hospital charges related to neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) have increased. However, there are no data available regarding costs of an NAS admission. Because charges are variable and influenced by a number of factors, provider costs to care for a patient offer more meaningful information.

Therefore, we endeavored to determine the incidence of NAS in the United States and estimate the total annual costs and hospital length of stay for an neonatal abstinence syndrome admission as well as the incremental costs and hospital days of admission for an NAS patient compared to a non-NAS admission.

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?

Response: We found a more than four-fold increase in the number of neonatal abstinence syndrome admissions between 2003 and 2012, resulting in a surge in annual costs from $61 million and approximately 68,000 hospital days in 2003 to nearly $316 million and over 291,000 hospital days in 2012. For a newborn affected by NAS, the hospital stay was nearly 3.5 times as long compared to a non-NAS patient and the costs more than 3 times greater.

MedicalResearch.com: What should clinicians and patients take away from your report?

Response: The incidence of neonatal abstinence syndrome is increasing in the United States and carries an enormous burden in terms of hospital days and costs. As suggested by previous literature, this increase can at least be partially attributed to the increase in maternal opioid use and the opioid epidemic. In an era of increasingly constrained health-care resources, the rising incidence of this syndrome has significant implications for policymakers, hospital administrators, and providers nationwide.

MedicalResearch.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this study?

Response: Given the large variation in screening and treatment practices of neonatal abstinence syndrome, further study is needed to determine the most effective assessment and management strategies to limit hospital length of stay for these infants while optimizing outcomes. Studies evaluating novel therapeutic plans aimed at more cost-efficient management should be encouraged.

MedicalResearch.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: Opioid use during pregnancy comes at a cost to the baby, both in potential withdrawal symptoms experienced as well as length of hospital admission to care for the newborn. Women of child-bearing age should be aware of the risk of withdrawal in their baby if they become pregnant while using or abusing opioids. Increased public health initiatives are need to target, educate, and provide resources for women of reproductive age in order to decrease antenatal drug exposure.

There are no disclosures.

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Corr, T. E., and Hollenbeak, C. S. (2017) The economic burden of neonatal abstinence syndrome in the United States. Addiction, doi: 10.1111/add.13842.

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