Fentanyl pain relief patches, sold under the brand name Duragesic patch, have caused some serious concerns within the medical community. The FDA issued a Public Health Advisory in July 2005 in response to numerous reports of death in patients using this powerful narcotic for pain relief. The FDA is currently investigating these Fentanyl death cases to determine whether the fatal risks are associated with the quality of the product or with its inappropriate use.
Fentanyl Transdermal Patches
The fentanyl transdermal patch is a topical adhesive strip that slowly administers the pain medication fentanyl through the skin. About 81 times stronger than morphine, fentanyl is used for cancer treatment or chronic pain that doesn't respond to other pain relievers.
Given the potency of this drug, it's crucial that patients use the fentanyl patch only as directed.
Do NOT use more than fentanyl than prescribed. Similarly, do NOT use the fentanyl pain patch without a prescription. Both of these events can lead to fentanyl patch abuse, which can result in:
- serious addiction
- life-threatening side effects
Fentanyl Patch Placement
Fentanyl patches come in five sizes of varying strengths, including (in order of increasing strength):
- 12.5 micrograms/hour (-g/h)
- 25 g/h
- 50 g/h
- 75 g/h
- 100 g/h
Stronger patches are larger, as larger areas of skin need to be covered to ensure that more of the drug is being absorbed.
Doctors will specify the ideal fentanyl patch placement based on an individual patient's needs, medical history and known drug tolerance. In general, the site of fentanyl patch placement will need to be rotated to achieve optimal pain relief.
Dangers of the Fentanyl Patch
Use of the fentanyl patch is known to cause a few serious, life-threatening side effects, including:
- addiction (A history of drug or alcohol addiction can cause people to attempt getting high off the fentanyl pain patch, as this medication reportedly has similar effects to heroin.)
- liver damage
- respiratory depression (not inhaling sufficient oxygen)
- severe allergic reaction, marked by hives, breathing difficulties and facial swelling
In addition to these side effects, it's important to note that prolonged use of this pain medication can cause fentanyl patch withdrawal, which is marked by:
- hot flashes
- loss of appetite
- night sweats
Should symptoms of fentanyl patch withdrawals last for significant periods of time, patients should seek immediate medical attention for a thorough examination.
Fentanyl patches may lead to death
In response to these Fentanyl death reports, the FDA has published a number of important facts about Fentanyl. The objective of these safety reports is to educate physicians and patients in hopes of reducing the risk of fatal Fentanyl overdoses. In order to avoid a Fentanyl overdose and other adverse drug reactions, the only patients that should be prescribed Fentanyl are those currently taking other prescription narcotics who also suffer long term consistent pain that is not well managed with shorter-acting opioids. It is also imperative that patients safely store, use, and dispose of Fentanyl patches exactly as directed.
There are many factors that can increase a patient's risk of suffering an adverse drug reaction including fatal Fentanyl overdose. Concurrent use of other medications that affect brain functioning or the way in which Fentanyl is broken down in the body may elevate Fentanyl levels in the body or increase the drug's effect. The consumption of alcoholic beverages may have a similar effect. Patients who are exposed to heat or experience an increase in body temperature are also at a greater risk of adverse Fentanyl effects.
Fentanyl symptoms and risk factors
Improper use of Fentanyl or the presence of these risk factors can lead to a fatal Fentanyl overdose. Symptoms of a Fentanyl overdose can include:
- slow or difficult breathing
- severe sleepiness or sedation
- cognitive disturbances
- dizziness or faintness
- other abnormal reactions
Patients experiencing any of these symptoms while on the Fentanyl patch should receive immediate medical attention.
It is important for consumers to understand that Fentanyl is a powerful analgesic with potency eighty times greater than morphine. Fentanyl should always be taken as directed by a physician and should never be used anyone without a prescription. Fentanyl is also used in other medical applications. In the 1960s, Fentanyl was first introduced into medicine as an intravenous anesthetic during surgery. Fentanyl is still used as an analgesic during childbirth. Some studies have found drawbacks to using Fentanyl during childbirth, including a decrease in breastfeeding rates in women who received this drug during delivery.
Fentanyl Patch Recall
Manufacturing errors made in production of certain fentanyl pain patches have caused overdoses and, in the worst cases, deaths. In 2008, a number of fentanyl patches were voluntarily recalled by various manufacturers, including:
- Actavis, formerly known as Abrika Pharmaceuticals (recalled patches from this company may still have the Abrika label)
- Corium International Inc.
- PriCara (a subsidiary of Orth-McNeil-Janssen Pharmaceuticals)
Anyone injured after using a fentanyl pain patch — as well as families of deceased fentanyl patients — will likely be entitled to compensation for their injuries by pursuing a fentanyl lawsuit.
Prospective plaintiffs can find out if they have a case by meeting with an experienced fentanyl lawyer for a free consultation. In addition to getting a thorough evaluation of their claim, prospective plaintiffs can also get expert advice regarding the best manner in which to pursue their claim.
Are you taking Fentanyl?
The FDA has not yet determined if the fatal Fentanyl overdose risks are the product of a drug defect or the incorrect use of this powerful narcotic. If you or a loved one is taking Fentanyl, you should speak with your doctor about how to reduce your risks of fatal Fentanyl adverse reactions. If you or someone you know has suffered a serious injury while taking Fentanyl, please contact a Fentanyl lawyer to speak with a qualified and experienced attorney who can evaluate your case to determine your legal rights and options.
Have you or a loved one been injured after using a Fentanyl patch? If so, contact us today to talk to an experienced Fentanyl attorney who can evaluate your claim and help you win the compensation you deserve.
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