Duragesic Patches Cause Wrongful Deaths
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Duragesic Patches Cause Wrongful Deaths

Friday, April 24, 2009By Richard Alexander

On a December evening in 2003, a 28-year old man began to type his resume, but he never finished. Instead, he died at his desk from a lethal overdose of Fentanyl, a powerful narcotic.

His wrongful death was the result of a defective Duragesic Fentanyl Transdermal Patch made by Johnson & Johnson. Seven years before he had shattered his hip and the Duragesic patch was supposed to deliver a slow and steady dose of Fentanyl that would help him deal with his pain. Instead, the patch was defective and it delivered a massive overdose that caused his death.A 2006 study 2006 concluded that Fentanyl has caused more accidental deaths than any drug other than Oxycodone. The study attributed 3,545 deaths to Fentanyl between 1998 and 2005, and confirmed that the patch was the biggest cause of those deaths.

Fentanyl is a synthetic drug that is chemically similar to morphine, but Fentanyl is 100 times more powerful and much more dangerous than morphine, which itself is a highly addictive drug derived from the opium poppy.

Morphine has been in use since at least 3000 BC, and it does have valid medical uses, but it also poses a grave danger of personal injury, addiction, and death to anyone who uses it. During the Civil War, surgeons used morphine as an anesthetic, and more than 400,000 people went home from the fighting with the "Army disease", or morphine addiction.

Multiply the strength of morphine by 100, and the result is a drug so potent that Fentanyl allows no room for error in the dosage. The Fentanyl patch has a vary narrow therapeutic range. The strength of Fentanyl makes it attractive to illicit drug users, and some of them have actually died before they could even pull the needles out of their arms.

Most wrongful deaths from Fentanyl occur when the drug slows or completely stops breathing and causes asphyxia - oxygen death. In addition, Fentanyl can cause severe personal injuries that involve almost every part of the body and the brain.

In order to be a candidate for the Duragesic patch, a patient must already have developed a tolerance for a less powerful opioid drug such as morphine or Oxycodone. Fentanyl should never be the first pain medication that a patient is administered. Heat can also increase the absorption rate of a Duragesic patch, and doctors and pharmacists have a responsibility to inform patients and their caregivers of all the precautions that they need to take when using Fentanyl.

Fentanyl has legitimate uses as a pain management tool for a very narrow range of patients. It must be used exactly as directed and safely manufactured Duragesic patches can be beneficial for people such as terminal cancer patients whose pain is so severe that it no longer responds to other medicines.

Duragesic received FDA approval in 1990, but flaws in the manufacturing process showed up almost immediately.

The first recall occurred in 1994, and although the company has never adequately corrected its manufacturing process it has continued to market the product. Johnson & Johnson, the original manufacturer of Duragesic patches, has now been forced to issue a total of 5 recalls, and other makers of the patches have also had quality control problems that have led to recalls of defective patches that are killers.

The most common manufacturing problem I have seen injuring our clients is called a fold-over defect. A fold in the patch causes the Fentanyl gel to leak onto the skin of the patient at an uncontrolled and unwanted rate, causing an overdose.

A fold-over defect is also a danger to caregivers who touches the patch and come into contact with the gel.

Fentanyl is a powerful and sometimes deadly drug. The Duragesic patch has been causing personal injuries and deaths since its introduction almost 20 years ago. The latest recalls are clear evidence that manufacturers will not take all the steps necessary to assure patients that their patches are safe, always safe.

If you or a loved one has suffered injury or death from a Duragesic patch, contact me to take the aggressive legal action you need for what has been inflicted on you.

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