Last month, a study was published in the medical journal The BMJ in which Harvard researchers highlighted the side effects of opioid use during pregnancy and indicated that the use increased the risk of a cleft palate, cleft lip, or other birth defects.
The data for research was collected from two sources, the Medicaid Analytic eXtract (MAX) from 2000 to 2014 and the MarketScan Research Database from 2003 to 2015, which included more than 1.6 million publicly insured pregnant women. The researchers had set the eligibility to at least three months before pregnancy to one month after delivery with infants’ eligibility for at least three months after birth.
The women with two or more prescription dispensations of an opioid painkiller, like Vicodin or OxyContin, during the first trimester of pregnancy, were considered by the researchers. Out of the total, nearly 70,000 publicly insured women and around 12,000 commercially insured pregnant women had two or more prescription dispensations.
The research revealed that in the MAX cohort the risk of abnormalities overall was 41 per 1,000 pregnancies as compared to 32 per 1,000 unexposed pregnancies and in the MarketScan cohort, the data revealed a risk of 42 per 1,000 exposed pregnancies as compared to 37 per 1,000 unexposed pregnancies. The researchers further noted that other birth defects, like heart malformations, club foot, or neural tube defects were comparatively lower.
In conclusion, the researchers stated that prescription opioids used in early pregnancy are not associated with a substantial increase in risk for most of the malformation types considered, although a small increase in the risk of oral clefts associated with their use is possible.
The same month, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued the Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR) indicating that from 2013 to 2019 overdose deaths related to opioids, which involved fentanyl, and other synthetic versions of the addictive pain killers had skyrocketed.