WASHINGTON (AP) _ Drug profiteers could be sued for damages by victims of drug abuse, including babies, under a bill under consideration in a House subcommittee.

Babies born to drug-addicted women ``are clearly the most innocent and vulnerable'' of the victims and require extensive medical and psychological treatment, said Rep. Tom Latham, R-Iowa, the bill's sponsor.

``These potential remedies are expensive,'' he told the House Government Reform and Oversight subcommittee on criminal justice.

Through court-appointed guardians, these babies ``should be able to recover damages from those in the community who have entered and participated in the marketing of the types of illegal drugs that have caused their injuries,'' he added.

The bill also would allow parents, employers, insurers and providers of health care and drug treatment to sue people in the illegal drug market for damages. The idea, Latham said, is ``to shift ... the cost of the damage caused by the existence of the illegal drug market in a community to those who illegally profit from that market.''

Under the legislation, users would be able to identify and seek payment for their drug treatment from their drug dealers. Similar legislation has been enacted in Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, California, Michigan, Arkansas, Utah, Oklahoma, Georgia, Arkansas, South Dakota and Louisiana.

The first lawsuit brought under such a law, in 1995, resulted in a $1 million judgment in favor of a Michigan drug baby and more than $7 million to the city of Detroit to cover expenses for prison drug programs, Latham said.