Fentanyl & Fentanyl Patch Lawsuits

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by Jay Pate

Fentanyl is an extremely potent Schedule II analgesic used for pain relief.  It’s powerful narcotic effects are approximately 100 times more potent than morphine.  Fentanyl was first synthesized in the 1960’s and was used as a general anesthetic.  In the mid 1990’s, transdermal fentanyl patches were approved by the FDA for use in the management of persistent, moderate-to-severe chronic pain.   Other delivery methods (such as the Actiq lollipop and Fentora tablets) soon followed as alternative prescription formations of fentanyl.  Fentanyl is currently the most widely used synthetic opioid in clinical practice.

The Fentanyl transdermal patch is used for chronic pain management.  The fentanyl patch is applied to the skin and works by releasing fentanyl into the fatty under-layers of the skin (called the skin depot), which then slowly release the drug into the bloodstream over 48 to 72 hours.  The Duragesic® brand fentanyl patch is manufactured by the Johnson & Johnson subsidiary Alza Corporation and was the first fentanyl patch approved by the FDA.  Today, there are numerous generic versions of the fentanyl patches available for prescription, including those made by Sandoz (also manufactured by Alza Corp.), Mylan Laboratories Inc., Watson Pharmaceuticals and Actavis.  Fentanyl patches are manufactured in five patch sizes: 12 microgams/hr, 25 ug/h, 50 ug/h, 75 ug/h and 100 ug/h.

Over the last several years, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has received hundreds of reports of fatal fentanyl overdoses directly tied to use of fentanyl patches.  The malfunction of patches has caused fentanyl gel to leak out of the patch and be absorbed by patients, resulting in fentanyl overdose, life-threatening side effects and even death.  Signs of overdose include difficulty breathing, shallow breathing, extreme sleepiness, confusion, disorientation and feelings of faintness or dizziness.  Removing the fentanyl patch won’t immediately reverse the problem as the drug continues to be absorbed into the body for several hours after the patch is removed.  Manufacturers of fentanyl patches have voluntarily recalled numerous lots of patches, and the FDA has issued public health advisories related to fentanyl patch dangers.

Despite the numerous recalls and FDA advisories, the companies that manufacture fentanyl patches continue to maintain their patches are “safe” and have a long history of aggressively defending lawsuits filed by families of those who have been killed from defective patches.  The fact remains that, even today, people continue to receive lethal doses of fentanyl despite normal, prescribed use of fentanyl patches.  Heygood, Orr & Pearson has more experience than any other law firm in standing up to the drug companies that make fentanyl patches that have caused the death of a loved one. They have filed hundreds of cases against manufacturers of fentanyl patches including Johnson & Johnson, Ortho McNeil Janssen, Sandoz, Mylan, and Actavis pharmaceutical companies.  If you have lost a family member or a loved one as a result of using a fentanyl patch, please contact our office.