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.
Fentanyl has been marketed as the Duragesic patch, Actiq lollipop, and Fentora tablet.
Duragesic, manufactured by Janssen Pharmaceuticals, delivers the powerful drug fentanyl in a transdermal patch. The Duragesic CII patch, also knows as fentanyl transdermal system, is a strong medication for moderate-to-severe chronic pain, available only by prescription, which can provide long-lasting relief from persistent pain. It is an opioid pain medication that slowly seeps into the body through the skin where it works to relieve pain for up to 72 hours.
In February of 2004, Janssen Pharmaceuticals, a subsidiary of Johnson & Johnson, recalled one lot of the 75 mcg per hour patches because of reports of leaks in the packaging, causing the fentanyl to seep into a person's skin at an uncontrolled rate. In April of 2004, the recall was expanded to include 4 more lot numbers of the same 75 mcg per hour patches. Results of the leaking patches may lead to life-threatening injuries.
Actiq, manufactured by Cephalon Inc., consists of a fentanyl-containing hard lozenge on a stick, much like a lollipop. 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.
Fentora, made by Cephalon Inc., is a tablet form of fentanyl that has been linked to an alarming number of overdoses in the United States. Inadequate warning labels on Fentora packaging, as well as negligent dosing instructions and marketing practices, may give rise to manufacturer liability for injuries suffered by users of Fentora.