Experts Challenge Findings in FL Task Force Report on Rx Drug Abuse & Newborns‏

April 4, 2013, New York and Maryland, April 3, 2013 – Today, four leading experts in law, medicine, and addiction treatment, Robert G. Newman, MD, MPH, Lynn M. Paltrow, JD, Sharon Stancliff, MD, FAAFP and Mishka Terplan, MD, MPH, FACOG, Diplomate, ABAM, released to Task Force members and the public their analysis of the Final Report issued by the Florida Statewide Task Force on Prescription Drug Abuse and Newborns, urging Florida to give greater attention to existing well-established medical protocols and to address the needs of pregnant women, including the need for greater access to Medication Assistance Treatment and health services that are not linked to punitive criminal justice and unnecessary child welfare interventions.

The Florida Statewide Task Force on Prescription Drug Abuse and Newborns, created by the 2012 Florida Legislature and chaired by Attorney General Pam Bondi, was charged with “examining the scope of [Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome “NAS”] in Florida, its long-term effects and the costs associated with caring for drug exposed babies, and which drug prevention and intervention strategies work best with pregnant mothers.” Their report was issued in February 2013. 

While the experts commend the Task Force for its efforts, they identified numerous concerns about the report and the limitations of the information presented to and considered by the Task Force. Dr. Robert Newman, MD, MPH, Director, Baron Edmond de Rothschild Chemical Dependency Institute of Beth Israel Medical Center in New York explained, “We are very concerned that this Report — one that will influence policy in Florida and that may be relied upon by other states — uses language and makes findings that perpetuate misinformation about NAS, pregnant women, and opiate use.” He added, “the Report contains views on treatment for pregnant women and newborns with NAS that do not reflect known, medically tested treatment protocols.”

The Expert’s assessment also raised concerns about:

  • The conflation of drug exposed newborns with those actually diagnosed with NAS;
  • Acknowledgment of, but a failure to address, key barriers to care and treatment;
  • Suggested public awareness campaigns that use inaccurate and counterproductive language that stigmatizes pregnant women;
  • The Task Force’s membership, which did not include experts specifically in opioid dependence, or women who were or have been pregnant while opioid dependent.

The full text of this analysis is available online here. In addition, more than 40 experts recently released an open letter urging media to end to inaccurate reporting on prescription opiate use by pregnant women. That letter is available here:

Contact: Robert G. Newman, MD, MPH
Phone: 212-523-8390

Lynn Paltrow, JD
Phone: 212-255- 9252