“How Best to Treat Opioids’ Youngest Sufferers? No One Knows”

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The Story

“How Best to Treat Opioids’ Youngest Sufferers? No One Knows”
by Lindsey Tanner [Pitched by Clemson University director of research communications Clinton Colmenares]
Associated Press, February 14, 2018

The Pitch

It was great seeing you in San Francisco! I knew it was you as soon as I heard your voice. It was like old-home week; I saw a lot of folks who don’t usually attend NASW.

Hey, so, we’ve got a neonatal abstinence syndrome study that’s changing the standard of care for babies born to mothers who are addicted to opioids.

Let me know if you, or anyone at AP, is interested. If not, no worries.

Current standard of care: babies born to opioid-addicted mothers are observed for symptoms of withdrawal. It’s a wait-and-see approach that separates babies from mothers.

New protocol: treat babies with methadone within 24 hours of birth. This reduces the odds of babies having neonatal abstinence syndrome and all its associated horrors. Outcomes: withdrawals are less severe, so babies can spend more time with their mothers, which also helps mothers and facilitates bonding.

It’s also cheaper: for 117 infants studied between 2006 and 2014, the average charge for neonatal abstinence syndrome with the new protocol was $11,000; statewide average was $45,000 and national average was $60,000.

Medicaid initially funded the project with $1.2 million. I’ve attached a study with preliminary data.

Tomorrow they’re announcing an investment of $2.5 million over the next five years to expand the protocol, and the research, to 10 hospitals around South Carolina.

Clemson partners on health research with Greenville Health System, a regional hospital system in Greenville, SC, 40 miles away.  We provide the public health research and epidemiology, they provide the patients.

I’ve searched the literature and the news, and haven’t found a similar protocol.

UPMC announced a new unit for addicted mothers, but there was no mention of a change in medical protocol.




Clinton Colmenares

Director of Research Communications

Office of University Relations

Clemson University

  1. 919-548-6493

@ClemsonResearch, @ClemsonUniv

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