Bryan Cohen Sep. 11, 2013, 7:18pm

FRANKFORT, Ky. (Legal Newsline) - Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway lauded the U.S. Food and Drug Administration on Tuesday for adding a pregnancy warning to extended release or long acting opioid analgesics.

The FDA made the change after receiving correspondence from Conway and 42 of his colleagues. Conway is the co-chair of the National Association of Attorneys General Substance Abuse Committee.

"I applaud the FDA for making this change that will better alert physicians and patients about the dangerous consequences of using these powerful prescription painkillers during pregnancy," Conway said. "The warning labels on long-acting and extended release opioid analgesics are a good first step, and I hope similar labels will one day be included on all opioid prescriptions."

Conway and his colleagues contacted the FDA after states throughout the U.S. reported an increase in the number of babies born addicted to prescription drugs. In Kentucky, instances of neonatal abstinence syndrome rose 2,500 percent in the last decade. There were 730 babies born with NAS in 2011 in Kentucky. In 2009, there were an 13,539 estimated cases of NAS among newborns.

The FDA will now warn expectant mothers that the use of such products during pregnancy can result in neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome, a condition which may be life-threatening to the baby.

"Babies who are born dependent on powerful painkillers can face a lifetime of challenges, both physically and mentally," Conway said. "These are the youngest victims of an epidemic that is shattering families across Kentucky and the country. I appreciate the FDA joining us in our efforts to educate patients about the dangers of these drugs so we can work to reverse this alarming trend."

In 2011, the estimated cost of treating newborns born addicted to opioid painkillers in Kentucky totaled close to $40 million.

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