Our personal injury law firm is now investigating two separate fentanyl patch overdose death cases, both coincidentally occuring in North Carolina, and both involving the 75 mcg/hr dose patch (patches have 25, 50, 75, and 100 mcg/hr dosages). In accepting one of the cases, where a 35 year old married accountant died on her couch after applying a pain patch, I have promised her husband/widower that our law firm will get to the bottom of how this intelligent young woman, with abdominal pain of several weeks, could have overdosed and died from wearing a fentanyl patch prescribed by her doctor for abdominal pain.
[Update Spring 2011: there have been numerous additional accidental fentanyl pain patch overdose accidental deaths in North Carolina, Virginia, Georgia and nationwide, but many such deaths occur and are not confirmed due to lack of autopsy…please read more below and in other linked articles]
Questions involving fentanyl patches that our law firm is investigating:
1. Since fentanyl is 81 times stronger than morphine drop for drop, why is this potent drug prescribed for a patient to handle at home, when so many patients have died from overdoses in the last several years?
2. Several recalls have occured and the FDA has issued a Public Health Advisory citing reports of deaths in patients using the fentanyl patch.
3. A number of drug manufacturers of time-release fentanyl patches have already seen sued over allegations of defective product claims as well as other claims. One of the claims is that a malfunction of the patches caused an overdose of fentanyl gel to leak and to be absorbed by patients, resulting in life-threatening side effects and even death. Manufacturers of fentanyl transdermal pain patches have voluntarily recalled numerous lots of their patches and the FDA has issued Public Health Advisories related to the fentanyl patch dangers. Manufacturers affected include Janssen Pharmaceutica Products, L.P.; Alza Corporation; Actavis South Atlantic, LLC; Sandoz; Cephalon, Inc. and Mylan.
4. Proper instructions of hospital staff/nurses: we are investigating the precise instructions that are provided to a patient when discharged from the hospital about how to change and handle the patch.
5. Dosage/Medication prescribed: given the powerful effects of fentanyl, and the known overdose dangers, why would any physician prescribe a significant dose of fentanyl, in a patch, when safer, alternative pain medications do not have nearly the high risks of death and overdose?
Fentanyl is so dangerous and potentially fatal, that it poses a major public health and safety issue that I plan to address in continuing articles on Injuryboard. The solutions may be that fentanyl should not be prescribed outside the hospital setting unless strict safeguards are followed. Presently, the warnings and the prescribing of this drug to patients for home use are simply far too loose and the FDA needs to restrict this drug’s use far more radically.
Other Injuryboard colleagues have discussed the dangers of fentanyl in articles entitled: FDA Issues Second Warning About Fentanyl Skin Patch and in FDA Warns About Fentanyl Again.
Updated February 2011:
Shapiro, Cooper Lewis & Appleton personal injury law firm is based in Virginia practicing primarily in the southeastern U.S. and handles only injury law, including dangerous drugs, car, truck, railroad, and medical negligence cases. The firm’s website is: www.hsinjurylaw.com , and the firm edits two injury law blogs: Virginia Beach Injuryboard & Norfolk Injuryboard.