1000% Increase In Number of Pennsylvania Babies Born Addicted to Opioids

MedicalResearch.com Interview with:


Joe Martin
Executive Director
PA Health Care Cost Containment Council
Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Harrisburg, PA 17101

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

Response: Several years ago, our agency noted that while mortality data for opioid addition was being reported, it did not include hospitalizations where death did not occur.  We believed our agency could make a valuable contribution to the data by beginning to report that.  We began with adults hospitalized in PA for opioid addiction, and supplemented that over time with reporting about maternity cases and newborns. Today’s report covers babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome.

MedicalResearch.com: What are the main findings?

Response: Since the fiscal year 2000/2001, the rate for these cases has increased by more than 1,000% (that’s not a typo). Nearly 2,000 babies in PA were born addicted to opioids in FY 2016/17 alone, just one year, 2,000.  For these cases, hospital stays are 5 times longer than all over newborns, and overall it costs more than $14 million annually to treat them, and those are just the inhospital costs for the initial stay.  Since these babies are much more likely to develop complications like low birth weight, difficulty feeding, and respiratory distress, it is reasonable to assume they will incur more treatment costs in future years.

MedicalResearch.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: Opioid addiction is an equal opportunity offender.  It impacts young and old, rich and poor, rural, suburban and urban, and as this reports shows, those at the most vulnerable stage of life.

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

Response: Continue to look at trending to help evaluate whether the many attempts to address this problem are having an impact. 

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

Response: Governor Wolf has declared a state of emergency and many efforts and resources are being directed at this problem.  It is all hands on deck. 


 Hospitalizations for Newborns with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome

PA Health Care Cost Containment Council March 2018

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Last Updated on March 28, 2018 by Marie Benz MD FAAD