The long term goals of our research are to establish the best pharmacological treatment for NAS and determine how pharmacologic treatment of NAS affects long-term developmental outcomes. The objective of this application is to evaluate the effectiveness of clonidine as a treatment for neonates with NAS, in a randomized clinical trial. Our central hypothesis is that clonidine will effectively treat drug withdrawal manifestations in neonates.



Eligible Ages
Under 7 Days
Eligible Genders
Accepts Healthy Volunteers

Inclusion Criteria

  • Gestational age (GA) > or equal to 35 weeks
  • Known prenatal opiate exposure (by mother admitting use, mom with positive opiate screen during pregnancy, or positive neonatal urine and meconium screening)
  • No known prenatal cocaine exposure
  • No morphine or clonidine dose before enrollment
  • Symptomatic with Finnegan scores (FS): 3 consecutive scores greater than or equal to 8, OR 2 consecutive scores greater than or equal to 12, and/or with attending decision to treat for NAS
  • Less than or equal to 7 days of age
  • Attending physician decides to start pharmacologic treatment and agrees to infant's study participation

Exclusion Criteria

  • Seizures
  • Major congenital malformations
  • Blood pressure instability
  • Major medical condition in addition to NAS
  • Parents unable to understand English

Study Design

Phase 3
Study Type
Intervention Model
Parallel Assignment
Intervention Model Description
The study is intended to treat NAS using a randomized and double-blind study design to compare the use of opiate (morphine) or non-opiate (clonidine). Newborns meeting the study criteria for drug withdrawal and treatment will be randomized to receive one of the drugs (morphine, clonidine). Newborns requiring a second drug to help relieve the symptoms will be treated with phenobarbital for both groups. Randomization, blinding and dispensing will occur in the Investigational Drug Services Unit. Nursing personnel in the NICU will be masked to the treatment administered to each baby.
Primary Purpose
Quadruple (Participant, Care Provider, Investigator, Outcomes Assessor)
Masking Description
The study will mask parents and child caregivers, and NICU nurses giving the drug, other personnel, residents and attending physicians, and research staff. Since initial dose is set using weight based-dosing, a physician's order can be entered in the electronic medical record to give the initial study drug with the infant's weight stated in the order. Increase in dosing will be ordered as to increase by 25% of initial dose or decrease of dose by 10% of maximum dose. During the pilot study, masking of treating personnel was maintained while the hospital pharmacist was the only person aware of which study drug the infant was receiving. The examiners for administration of the NNNS and the research nurse and research case worker will be masked to treatment received. Those seeing the infant in the clinic will also be masked to the treatment assignment. Morphine and clonidine are dispensed in identical appearance, color, smell, and volume.

Arm Groups

ArmDescriptionAssigned Intervention
Active Comparator
Babies randomized to clonidine will receive 1mcg/kg/dose (with a dosing interval of 3 or 4 hours).
  • Drug: Clonidine
    1mcg/kg/dose (with a dosing interval of 3 or 4 hours), increases by 25% of initial dose every 12-24 hrs. Decrease by 10% of max dose every 24 hrs.
    Other names:
    • clonidine hydrochloride
Active Comparator
Babies randomized to morphine will receive 0.06 mg/kg/dose (with a dosing interval of 3 or 4 hours).
  • Drug: Morphine
    Starting dose is 0.06 mg/kg/dose (every 3 or 4 hours), increases by 25% of initial dose every 12-24 hrs. Decrease by 10% of max dose every 24 hrs.
    Other names:
    • Morphine Sulfate

Recruiting Locations

UK Center for Clinical and Translational Science and nearby locations

The University of Kentucky Medical Center
Lexington, Kentucky 40536
Vicki Whitehead, RN

More Details

Henrietta Bada

Study Contact

Henrietta Bada, MD MPH

Detailed Description

In this current proposal, the research plan is based on our pilot study, which randomized infants with NAS to receive morphine or clonidine. The treatment groups were similar as to mean birth weight, gestational age, Apgar scores, and postnatal age at treatment. Infants enrolled had no other medical or surgical complications. Treatment was initiated per our NICU standard at the time, and will be continued in this protocol. Total LOS was shorter by about 1 week in the clonidine (mean of 15 days), compared to 21 days in the morphine group.

Aims and Objectives:

To determine whether the treatment of NAS with a non-opiate medication, clonidine, will be more effective than morphine

- Compare Clonidine and morphine for the treatment of NAS. Compare the efficacy of each drug which is determined by duration of treatment in number of days, number of dose escalations needed to achieve needed treatment, and the need for second drug treatment.

- Evaluate the neurobehavioral performance scores (habituation, orientation, self- regulation, motor/reflexes, and stress/ abstinence scales) using the neonatal intensive care (NICU) network neurobehavioral scale (NNNS) in both treatment groups. This exam will take place after treatment begins, and at one month post-natal age (38-44 weeks post menstrual age) or at discharge, whichever comes first.

To determine whether treatment of NAS with clonidine will result in better early childhood outcomes than those treated with morphine • Compare the cognitive, motor and behavioral development of children in both treatment groups using the Bayley III Scales of Infant Development at 6 months, one and two years of age.

To build population pharmacokinetic/pharmacodynamic models and determine factors that affect exposure and response to morphine and clonidine

• Measure blood levels obtained at random times and correlate to Finnegan scores. The pharmacodynamics may help with understanding NAS medications and coping measures in babies.


Study information shown on this site is derived from (a public registry operated by the National Institutes of Health). The listing of studies provided is not certain to be all studies for which you might be eligible. Furthermore, study eligibility requirements can be difficult to understand and may change over time, so it is wise to speak with your medical care provider and individual research study teams when making decisions related to participation.