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AAP Applauds Passage of Protecting Our Infants Act of 2015

Bipartisan bill to address neonatal abstinence syndrome heads to president for signature into law

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), and the March of Dimes applaud the passage of the bipartisan Protecting Our Infants Act of 2015 (S.799), which takes much-needed strides to reduce the number of newborns born exposed to drugs, such as opioids, and to improve their care. Since the bill's introduction, all three organizations have worked together leading advocacy efforts for its swift passage, and view today's action as a legislative victory for mothers and newborns across the country as the bill heads to the president for signature into law.    

"Every hour, one infant is diagnosed with neonatal abstinence syndrome. There could not be a more critical time to help families affected by substance use and abuse give their babies the healthiest possible start in life. Congress recognized the urgent need to address neonatal abstinence syndrome and responded, working across both sides of the aisle to do what is right for our mothers and newborns," said AAP President Sandra G. Hassink, MD, FAAP.

"The alarming increase in cases of infants born exposed to opioids and other drugs represents a public health crisis," stated March of Dimes President Dr. Jennifer L. Howse. "We must act urgently to reduce the terrible toll of neonatal abstinence syndrome.  The legislation passed by Congress will take important steps toward preventing new cases and treating affected infants, and we urge President Obama to sign this bill into law immediately."

"The American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists applauds Congress for its bipartisan passage of the Protecting Our Infants Act and looks forward to President Obama signing this important piece of legislation into law," said ACOG President, Mark S. DeFrancesco, MD. "This marks a major step toward addressing opioid use during pregnancy and giving women the care that is right for them. The Protecting Our Infants Act will take action to ensure a healthy outcome for both mother and baby while offering non-punitive, family-centered medical treatment."

Reports show the significant rise of opiate use and abuse has led to an alarming increase in the rate of babies born with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS). NAS refers to medical complications associated with drug withdrawal in newborns due to exposure to opioids or other drugs in utero. Between 2000 and 2009, the number of mothers found to be using opioids during pregnancy increased from 1.19 to 5.63 per 1,000 U.S. hospital births. Further, in that same time period, the number of babies born with NAS increased from 1.20 to 3.39 per 1000 hospital births per year. Babies born with NAS often need to be hospitalized for weeks, are difficult to console, and can suffer from seizures and other complications. Currently, there are no standardized guidelines for diagnosis and treatment for these newborns, and there is an urgent need for more research to optimize their health.

Specifically, the Protecting Our Infants Act of 2015, introduced by Reps. Katherine Clark (D- Mass.) and Steve Stivers (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Bob Casey (D-Pa.), directs the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to identify and make available recommendations for the prevention and treatment of prenatal opioid use disorders and diagnosis and treatment of NAS, evaluate and coordinate federal efforts to research and respond to NAS, and assist state health agencies with data collection.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed the Protecting Our Infants Act of 2015 (H.R. 1462), which has 99 bipartisan cosponsors, on Sept. 8, 2015. The U.S. Senate passed an almost-identical companion bill (S. 799), which garnered 22 bipartisan cosponsors, on Oct. 22, 2015. The Senate version of the bill, which was approved today by the House, will now head to the president to be signed into law.

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American Academy of Pediatrics (Copyright © 2015)
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