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Medical groups praise new federal law highlighting opioid exposure in pregnancy

November 30, 2015
by Gary A. Enos, Editor
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Several medical and advocacy groups have lauded last week's signing into law of legislation that will launch federal action to improve prevention and treatment efforts targeting drug-exposed newborns.

President Obama on Nov. 25 signed the Senate version of the Protecting Our Infants Act of 2015, which among its provisions will direct the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality to develop recommendations for the prevention and treatment of prenatal opioid abuse and neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, and the March of Dimes last week issued a joint statement praising the law's adoption.

“As ob-gyns, we recognize the importance of combatting the abuse of prescription opioids across the country while offering non-punitive, family-centered medical treatment,” stated Mark S. DeFrancesco, MD, president of the ob-gyn congress.

Also under the law, which was passed as Senate Bill 799, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) will conduct a review of planning and coordination efforts in the agency on this subject, in an attempt to close gaps in research and programming. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) in February found a lack of coordination in federal efforts on prenatal drug use and newborn health.

In addition, the legislation will assist states with data collection and surveillance efforts. The law is being signed at a time when more states have been considering following Tennessee's lead and imposing criminal penalties for women who use opioids or other drugs during pregnancy.