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Originally published September 27 2013

Prescription pain patches continue to kill children, but FDA decides to keep deadly drug on the market anyway

by Jonathan Benson, staff writer

(NaturalNews) The number of deaths caused by exposure to a type of transdermal opioid painkiller drug known as a fentanyl patch are on the rise among young children, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continues to lend its support to the drug's availability and use. According to Reuters, two more young children recently died following accidental exposure to the patches, an incident that the FDA has responded to by simply requiring that fentanyl patches now be relabeled in a different color.

Back in April, the FDA issued its own warning about the dangers of fentanyl patches, which are more popularly known by the Johnson & Johnson-owned brand name "Duragesic." Also available in generic form, these Duragesic patches are particularly dangerous for young children, who may pick them out of the garbage or find them on the ground and consequently absorb the high-dose drug directly into their bodies, according to the FDA. The intense doses of fentanyl found in the patches could ultimately result in death, admits the agency.

But despite these warnings, children are still dying from exposure to fentanyl patches, whether accidental or intentional; fentanyl patches, after all, are sometimes prescribed to younger individuals following surgical procedures. And little is being done to protect them apart from new requirements for patch manufacturers to clearly label the name and dose of the contained drug in a clearly visible color on each patch. The FDA admits that the current color scheme is hard to read, an issue that any reasonable person would agree should have been dealt with years ago.

"The current ink color varies by strength and is not always easy to see," explains a recent FDA statement following the two deaths. "This change is intended to enable patients and caregivers to more easily find patches on patients' bodies and see patches that have fallen off, which children or pets could accidentally touch or ingest."

Fentanyl patches are dangerous even when used as prescribed

One major problem with this approach, though, is the fact that fentanyl patches are still being prescribed to children, who are most at risk of death from exposure. Not only this, but adults have also died from the patches, even when used in accordance with prescribed guidelines. In other words, deaths from accidental exposure are just one problematic component of fentanyl patches, which for all intents and purposes are dangerous even when used as prescribed.

"Healthcare providers nationwide are still not getting the message as fentanyl patches continue to be implicated in scores of deaths," wrote Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar for the Los Angeles Times back in 2007, concerning the death of a 41-year-old Army Master Sergeant who died while sleeping as a result of using a fentanyl patch. "Patients and medical professionals have a tendency to see patches as benign devices akin to a bandage. It's easy to forget the powerful, potentially dangerous drug within."

The Johnson & Johnson-owned Duragesic patch has been the subject of at least six safety recalls in recent years, not to mention countless injuries in deaths. Back in 2008, J&J paid out $16.6 million to the family of a man who was killed after using the patch in 2004. And in 2009, it was reported by CBS News that sales of Duragesic had dropped in just three months by more than 20 percent worldwide following continual reports of injuries and deaths.

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