Fentanyl (Duragesic) Pain Patches Are Dangerous and Lead to Loss of Life | Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp

Pharmacist Lynn Hostetler told CBS News that fentanyl, which is sold in a patch by Ortho-McNeil under the brand name Duragesic, is one of the most dangerous drugs he dispenses. And that’s even when the time-released pain patch medication is prescribed properly. The respected pharmacist said there’s a small margin for error between a dose that is helpful and a dose that can kill.

Talk about a dangerous drug!

Moreover, one of the known, listed side effects of fentanyl is confusion. For patients, this means that making a small mistake in applying Duragesic patches could result in an accidental overdose death. Hundreds of such accidental overdose deaths have occurred.

Why is this pain patch drug so lethal? Because, drop-for-drop, fentanyl is 80 times more powerful than morphine. Furthermore, everyone’s skin absorbs fentanyl differently. The rate of drug absorption can vary 10-fold among patients.




Typically, a person starting to suffer from fentanyl poisoning does not become outwardly ill. They usually just get sleepy, lie down and, in accidental death cases, simply never wake up. Even if you suspect you might be suffering from fentanyl poisoning, taking off the patch does not help. The drug soaks out of the patch a into what is called the “skin depot” and then takes as long as 18 hours to diffuse into the blood stream. That means if you remove, it may still be too late to prevent receiving a fatal dose. This is why a tiny leak in a Duragesic pain patch can be so dangerous. If you have a leak, the skin depot can fill up real fast and then kill you.

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Why would drug companies promote such a potent pain medication delivery device? Primarily because there is massive profit in the sales of fentanyl pain patches. The companies argue that Duragesic and its generic equivalents have been used safely in hospitals for decades. The key phrase there is “in hospitals.”

Medical professionals supervise the dose in hospital settings. The manufacturers have yet to answer questions arising from the thousands of accidental overdose deaths among patients using Duragesic or other fentanyl patches at home. Or explain how it plans to compensate the families who have lost loved ones to fentanyl overdoses. The companies that manufacture fentanyl pain patches include:

  • Janssen Pharmaceutica Products, L.P.
  • Alza Corporation
  • Actavis South Atlantic, LLC
  • Sandoz
  • Cephalon, Inc.
  • Mylan

There have already been six voluntary fentany recalls since 1994, according to BNET.com.Also, numerous jury verdicts have been handed down against pain patch manufacturers in cases filed following accidental overdose deaths.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has issued several public warnings about the risks associated with using these pain patches. The best course of action, then, given the unacceptably high risk of serious injury or death from fentanyl pain patches is to take the drug products off the market or to have the FDA to modify the approved uses of the pain patches-such as requiring medical professionals to apply and remove the pain patches.

Injury attorney Richard N. Shapiro and our law firm wrote the FDA commissioner asking for the formation of an FDA task force to stop the unnecessary loss of life. Also, an ABC news affiliate based in Raleigh-Durham North Carolina (NC), has opened an investigation into issues surrounding fentanyl pain patches and interviewed a widower our firm represents as well as numerous other health professionals. That report may air in July 2010.

Unfortunately, the requests on the FDA have, up to this point, fallen on deaf ears. This means lives will continue to be lost and serious side effects will be experienced by innocent people. In fact, four people in Hampton Roads have died due to accidental fentanyl overdoses in 2009. Our firm is handling two fentanyl patch overdose wrongful death cases.

If you feel strongly that the FDA is not doing enough to protect patients, please write a letter to the FDA Commissioner at this address:


Margaret A. Hamburg, Commissioner
U.S. Food and Drug Administration
10903 New Hampshire Ave.
Silver Spring, MD 20993

If you have been adversely affected by Duragesic or another fentanyl patch, or if a loved one has accidentally overdosed while using the drug, give us a call for a free no-hassle consultation or fill out the quick contact form on the right side of the screen. We’re here to help.