FDA warns of fentanyl patch dangers to children
April 19th, 2012
06:50 PM ET

FDA warns of fentanyl patch dangers to children

Children explore their worlds by touching and tasting items within their reach. That can cause deadly results when the object of their curiosity contains a potentially lethal drug like pain relieving fentanyl.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued a consumer advisory Thursday, reminding parents, caregivers, and medical personnel of the deadly consequences posed to children from accidental contact with, or ingestion of fentanyl patches, which are marketed under the brand name Duragesic.

The patches are prescribed for patients experiencing constant pain - for example, cancer patients. They contain a strong synthetic opiate that relieves pain for three days. But when a child swallows a patch or applies it to his or her skin, the drug can slow breathing and result in death.

An advisory on the FDA website  says "Young children are at particular risk of accidental exposure to fentanyl patches. Their mobility and curiosity provide opportunities for them to find lost patches, take improperly discarded patches from the trash, or find improperly stored patches, all of which may result in patches being placed in their mouths or sticking to their skin.  Additionally, young children are at risk of exposure when being held by someone wearing a partially detached patch which can then transfer to the child. "

According to the FDA warning, there have been 26 incidents of accidental fentanyl exposure since 1997, resulting in ten deaths and 12 cases requiring hospitalization. Most of the cases involved children.

“This reinforces the need to talk to patients and their families," says Douglas Throckmorton, M.D., deputy director of FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, in a written statement, "to make sure that these patches are stored, used and disposed of carefully.”

soundoff (29 Responses)
  1. Big Moo

    not sure why, but apparently my comments before were deleted. CNN participates in as much censorship as anyone I think, free news my butt.

    April 20, 2012 at 05:31 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Terry

      You are correct. If your comments do not follow the pathway CNN wants the story to take, the dump your comments in the trash. That sort of sums up the media wanting freedom of the press and speech.

      April 20, 2012 at 07:04 | Report abuse |
    • hillman

      of course they do they dont want to make the drug companys look bad for forcing these drugs onto people the ones that are really killing people unlike marijuana

      April 20, 2012 at 08:09 | Report abuse |
  2. RyanG

    This really shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone; in fact, I would wage a bet that the numbers reported are incredible underestimates. As a doctor, I am appalled at the number of people who are using these kinds of medications and assuming they have no harmful effects to themselves or those around them (i.e. their children). These patches are high-strength narcotic medications that were initially intended for cancer patients. Unfortunately, they have made their way into the "chronic pain world" and, therefore, have become increasingly ubiquitous. They are very dangerous especially in overdose (either accidental or intentional) which can even be a very small exposure to a child. Incidentally, not noted in this article are the fentanyl lollipops (yes, just like DumDums!) which contain the same powerful narcotic in a kids-likeable, lickable format! No wonder the kids get into them.

    April 20, 2012 at 06:41 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Thomas

      I would like to know just what type of physican you are. You seem to be snubbing the practice of Chronic Pain medicine, which as a family member of a person that had chronic pain (which could be from anything FROM Cancer to severe back injury after a horrific auto accident or even sports injury), the local, small-town, physicians, would not want to treat my family member, yet they would not want to refer them out either to a larger town or city where there is a regional medical center and better choices for specialists. We took it on our own and was able to get him to a neuro-specialist who actually referred us to a Pain Management Physician who ended up treating him finally with this patch. We were not only instructed on the care of the patient and the medication by the physician, but by the pharmacy. This mediciation was one of the only things done for this family member in over 3 years to provide relief of pain and allowed him to rest at night and not be constantly rippled with pain. You sir sound just like those small-town physicians that treats just colds and flu symptoms and if the x-ray doesn't show it, then it isn't happening. This family member finally passed away a few years later, however, we were glad that we were able to help him live somewhat pain free or with less pain for a while and have a little peace!

      April 20, 2012 at 08:13 | Report abuse |
    • hillman

      doctors like u are prescribing everybody these types of medication so dont blame nobody else except ur selves i.e. in medical field an now that it has gotten out of hand an everybody is addicted to theses types of medicines u want to blame the people that are using them.give me a break u an ur fellow coworkers need to be held liable if children and adults overdose i.e. sent to prison not the addicts

      April 20, 2012 at 08:13 | Report abuse |
    • reg

      I remember watching an intervention show on A&E and the lady was addicted to Fentanyl and was sucking on these suckers all day long. My first thought was how ridiculous an idea to make a narcotic filled sucker. I wonder how many peolpe OD on this contraption. What a pathetic design for a pain killing option.

      April 20, 2012 at 08:19 | Report abuse |
    • Chronic Pain Dr

      With all due respect, you should stick to the practice of medicine you are familiar with. You have made several statements that are very misleading, if not false. First of all, the packaging of both the patch (and the pops since you brought it up) are very heavy duty and very difficult for a child to get into. This is by design. Secondly, when accepted into a pain center, patients sign contracts that require them to keep their meds in safes and away from others, not just children. Blaming the medicine, or the Dr is like blaming the car that runs over someone. These meds exist for a reason and if you worked with burn victims, cancer patients, surgical trauma victims, birth defects, and many other maladies, you'd have a much better understanding of the pure "hell" some people have to endure, even with pain medications.

      You took an oath to "do no harm", so please do the profession a favor by stop bad mouthing the chronic pain world. Thank you.

      April 20, 2012 at 10:12 | Report abuse |
    • Doc

      There are times and situations in which all medications are appropraite. For example, it was innappropraite for Micheal Jackosn to be given Propofol without proper respiratory monitoring in a proper healthcare setting. I use this medication on a daily basis in my practice, but it is an inpatient setting where people can be closely monitored. As for the opioid lollipop, it too has its place. For example, patients with head and neck cancers that can not take oral medication may be able to tolerate using the lollipop as its active ingredient is absorb by the lining of the mouth. This of course can be very dangerous, but so can leaving your bottle of Vicodin laying around for you child to grab. This comes down to personal common sence. Don't dispose of your meds in the open trashcan in your bathroom if you have a little kid. As far as Dr's being responsible for people who OD on this stuff, that is a very slippery slope that is also very hazzy. Should we send the CEO of Ford to jail if someone kills themselves driving their F-150?

      April 20, 2012 at 10:23 | Report abuse |
  3. unowhoitsme

    Drugs are dangerous....that's why they require a prescription.

    April 20, 2012 at 06:49 | Report abuse | Reply
    • hillman

      then why dose the medical profession and our schools tell people they are safe it all starts in our schools they need to be held reliable also they are teaching our kids that drugs make them feel good but when they leave they arrest them and put them in jail jus like the doctors they are not taking any responsibility either

      April 20, 2012 at 08:19 | Report abuse |
  4. emily

    I think it's a little ridiculous that we have to remind people to dispose of these things correctly. If you have young children or pets in your home you should know that there are certain things you do not dispose of in a trash can that they can access! I also agree with RyanG that the lollipops are just something you should not have in your home if you have children.

    April 20, 2012 at 07:33 | Report abuse | Reply
    • hillman

      then him and his medical partners shouldnt be making them in the first place beleive me ryang and his co workers know what they are doing its all about the money MONEY. THEY DONT CARE ABOUT OUR CHILDREN or the ones who they are turning into addicts

      April 20, 2012 at 08:24 | Report abuse |
    • ForGoodOfAll

      Unfortunately, there are a lot of clueless & negligent parents that do not have even a molecule of common sense. Very sad for their children...

      April 20, 2012 at 08:27 | Report abuse |
  5. Nick

    The over presciption of opiates to "manage" chronic pain is an outrage...and in my opimnion, a dangerous crime of negligent disregard for a patient's well being. Opiates are very well known to have disasterous side effects to virtually ALL those who take them for long enough to become addicted, and should therefor be used only in the most extreme cases such as major surgery or terminal cancer etc. Every single dose of opiates must be considered as extremely dangerous, and avoided if at all possible.
    It seems like all a person needs to do to get a prescription for these drugs is ask thier doctor. Once a person is addicted, they have control over thier own supply...simply by asking. Does anyone not see that giving the addict control over the supply is a major problem?
    I was totally powerless as I watched it happen to my girlfriend. She's not dead yet, but thats about the best thing I can say about her situation. A tragedy that has ruined both of our lives. She was prescribed fentanyl to manage carpal tunnel syndrome....a simple condition that can be fully cured with one hour long visit to the specialist. Clearly her doctor didn't weigh the pros and cons appropriately.

    April 20, 2012 at 08:16 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Deep State

      Some doctor, prescribing fentanyl for carpal tunnel syndrom. Clearly put your GF in danger.

      April 20, 2012 at 09:07 | Report abuse |
    • Jeff

      As a chronic pain patient myself, your argument is ass backwards, it's the addicts from using these drugs recreationally that has screwed the real patients, my condition was made worse by a "specialist" who talked me into letting him operate on me, well he screwed up and left me in much more pain then when I started, but because of all the non-pain users turned addicts the reluctance to prescribe me the correct medication caused me to go almpst 2 years of barely being able to walk and crying myself to sleep every night before finally a true proffesional came to my aid, although the pain will never go away my doctor has giving me the ability to be part of my families lives after 2 years I finaly was able with the help of my cain walk around the block with myy daughter about 6 months ago something that I did daily before my injury and something that tore me up everyday for 2 years not being able to do with her and her asking me every day what happened to me, you want some one to blamme for the way things have gotten blame the users who buy these drugs on the streets that have screwed up the proper treatment for people who need, you are correct that no Dr should have ever prescribed Fetynyl for carple tunnel, funny I have capal tunnel and for years thought it was the worse pain ever and then I found out what pain truely was i would give anything to just have the pain in my wrist, fingers, and fore arms back, the pain from my surgery is so intense that the pain from my wrist doesn't even register in my brain any more, most Drs want to help people but because of a few Drs and users these legit Drs hand are tied and therfore causing people who suffer from real pain to suffer even more to the point where they are begging for help do you know what happens then, you get red flagged as an addict and never get the help you need alot of these people end up paying thousands of dollars a month on the street to get the medication they should be legally allowed to have and when they get caught they don't get help they get thrown in jail, all because some decided to use these drugs to party with

      April 20, 2012 at 09:45 | Report abuse |
    • elizabeth

      Nick – your GF's doctor prescribed inappropriately, but that doesn't mean that fentanyl has no use for patients with real, unmanageable, untreatable chronic pain. I have endured 28 major surgeries after a car accident caused by the other driver's stupidity back in 1989. I have had 3 major back surgeries and 6 surgeries on my right hip alone. In addition, I have multiple sclerosis (not related to the accident) and fibromyalgia (may be related to it). I have seen a pain management specialist since 1991, when it became obvious that my body was not repairable and I would have pain for the rest of my life. For me, pain medication allows me to live an almost normal life. My dosages do not increase; I do not go around seeking drugs; I am not an "addict". I do, however, need pain medication to function in the same way a diabetic needs insulin to function.

      It's time that people get over the idea that all pain medication is bad unless one is inches from dead. My grandfather even had a doctor refuse palliative pain meds when he WAS dying for fear he's become an addict - in his coffin, I guess! This is stupidity at its worst. Every drug has good and bad uses, and nit is up to doctors and patients to use medications properly. Fentanyl for carpal tunnel is NOT a proper use.

      April 20, 2012 at 10:39 | Report abuse |
  6. Deep State

    Fentanyl is dangerous – period. Knew someone who was put on the transdermal patches and it nearly killed them. The various armed services across the EU have talked of banning the patches for use on wounded soldiers (not sure but the ban may be in effect already)

    Also, Fentanyl is a weapon. It is unconfirmed, but widely believed that a derivative of fentanyl was used in gas form during the Moscow theater siege in 2002 killing 129 hostages.

    April 20, 2012 at 09:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Curious

    Could someone with knowlege on this subject answer this question. My friend died from a fentanyl overdose. His tox result showed he had 6.1 in his system when he died. Does anyone know what this relates too? Meaning, how many patches did he use or lollipops did he consume that fatal day. It would help me understand his death a little more.

    April 20, 2012 at 09:30 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. elizabeth

    I used these patches until inconsistencies in the adhesives used forced me to change medications (some adhesives triggered anaphylaxis in me – not worth the risk). EVERY surface (except the clear patch itself) had disposal instructions in bold print that warned of dangers to others who might come in contact with a patch. You'd have to willfully ignore them to cause harm to others.

    April 20, 2012 at 10:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. lisak1369

    everyone stop raggin on the doctor that posted! Doctors are USED without their knowledge to by the pharmeceutical companies to market drugs. Your family physician was likely not in the lab, testing or inventing a certain drug for a certain purpose. SHE/HE only knows what the pharm co. tells them when it sends samples and says "HEY LOOK WHAT WE MADE!"
    They are NOT informed of possible side effects or "occassional death" caused by the drug. They are not told that a more affective, less expensive, safer treatment was squashed so they could market this one long term and make tons of money.
    Trust your doctor...but ask your pharmacist and do your research. http://www.drugs.com is a good site to find out a lot before you try a med you have never heard of. or you can just google the name of it.
    and YES! KEEP AWAY FROM CHILDREN! like it says on the label...

    April 20, 2012 at 11:01 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Believe64

    Anyone who thinks that the patches should be for cancer patients only has not experienced chronic pain. I used the patch for a period of time (no longer using) for a chronic pain condition. It saved my life and allowed me to function in my family with small children. There are warnings all over the package about proper disposal. The problem is the people who use these drugs for recreational use period.

    April 20, 2012 at 15:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  11. professional student

    As a chronic pain patient, i agree with Elizabeth and Jeff. I also agree with 2 of the 3 self-described doctors in this thread. Fentanyl, just like all opioud pain meds, is a very strong tool to help control chronic pain and enable people to live as productively and independantly as possible. Unfortunately, there are many people (both drug addicts and doctors addicted to fast/easy $$) making it look like anyone associate with these meds is a social dreg.
    I think the Chemist/Pharmacist who discovered fentanyl and it's transdermal delivery is a genius. in my case, this med has no high, no dizziness, no light-headedness; simply- the side-effects that draw people to these meds are non-existant in this one. This allows me to be a fully independant, full-time graduate student seeking a professional career.

    April 23, 2012 at 18:39 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. olliebygolly

    i have taken the patch for chronic pain and now take lollipops for cancer i have always kept all meds locked n out of reach of chilren. i've explained the dangers to my own children. i disposed of both patches/lollipops discreetly not just for children's sake, but for animals roaming in garbage. if i didn't have this pain relief, my life would be unbearable. i did try other means of pain relief b/4 using fentanyl. my pain doctor moniters me closely. use common sense with all meds & children/pets.

    April 24, 2012 at 17:39 | Report abuse | Reply
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