Attorneys get neonatal abstinence syndrome names to file claims against Purdue.
An agreement was reached last week been reached in Kanawha County Circuit Court in West Virginia following a request from a group of attorneys demanding that the Department of Health and Human Resources release the names of 4,000 children in the state diagnosed with neonatal abstinence syndrome (NAS) since 2016. The complaint is part of the Purdue Pharma bankruptcy case, which began in 2019 and is seeking millions in damages from the drug maker.
NAS occurs when an infant withdraws from addictive drugs he or she has been exposed to in the mother’s womb. It most commonly occurs by the mothers who take opioids, but is can also occur from the use of antidepressants, barbiturates or benzodiazepines. These can pass through the placenta and cause serious problems. The attorneys sought to retrieve a list of all infants born with NAS as a result of Purdue’s alleged deceptive business practices related to the marketing of its opioid drug, OxyContin.
In filing for bankruptcy last fall, Purdue Pharma was able to provide itself with protection against 2,600 federal and state lawsuits the drug maker was facing for its role in the opioid crisis. The move raised an automatic stay of civil litigation against the company while the Sackler family did not have to face personal bankruptcy. What’s more, the bankruptcy may also shield the billionaire family behind Purdue from any future claims against it. Many of the victims with loved ones directly impacted by the opioid crisis and Purdue’s misrepresentation of its drug simply want some sort of restitution for their losses.
According to Charleston attorney Booth Goodwin, of Goodwin & Goodwin LLP, “An agreement was reached with the DHHR to appoint two guardian ad litems, attorneys who will represent the children, to take the names of the children diagnosed with NAS and provide notice directly that there is still an opportunity for them to be represented as part of a potential class within the bankruptcy of Purdue Pharma.”
Goodwin added, “Many individuals and their families didn’t know they qualify to submit a claim in the case because the bankruptcy court is not allowed access to their information – most notably, that of the children diagnosed with NAS.” He stated, “Children born with NAS are the most innocent victims of the drug crisis. These children and their families deserve to know about legal proceedings that could provide them resources to help them throughout their lives.”
The West Virginia Birth Score Program, which houses a registry of children born with NAS, has been in place since October 2016. However, the DHHR said “the data cannot be used to provide notice of the ongoing litigation affecting the children,” due to confidentiality laws. The attorneys said the laws cited by DHHR don’t apply when “health is a concern” and they believe “the Birth Score Program is meant to protect the health and well-being of a child.” The move may help families receive compensation despite Purdue’s bankruptcy.