Actiq, manufactured by Cephalon Inc., consists of a fentanyl-containing hard lozenge on a stick, much like a lollipop. Fentanyl is a potent synthetic opiate that is prescribed as a pain reliever in patients suffering severe pain, such as cancer patients or those that have recently undergone surgery. Fentanyl is highly addictive and more potent than either oxycodone or morphine. It is generally prescribed when other pain relief medications have proven ineffective. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 1,000 deaths have resulted from fentanyl overdoses in the United States alone. In 2005, over 22,000 overdoses were reported.
Actiq was only approved for treatment of severe pain in cancer patients, but negligent marketing practices caused it to be widely used for off-label purposes. The Actiq lollipop acts quickly to relieve pain, but may result in addiction and overdose if not properly administered and monitored.