May 1, 2013
Pharmacists Should Throw In Some Advice When
Dispensing Fentanyl Patches

Washington, D.C.—When pharmacists dispense fentanyl patches, including Duragesic and generic products, they also should dispense some advice on safe storage, use, application, and disposal of the products.

That’s according to the FDA, which is warning of the life-threatening harm from accidental exposure to the active ingredient, fentanyl, especially for children.

The FDA reported that it had evaluated a series of 26 cases of pediatric accidental exposures to fentanyl patches reported over the past 15 years, with 10 resulting in death and 12 in hospitalizations. Most of the exposures were in children younger than 2 years old.

The primary risk is that curious children will find patches—either improperly discarded in the trash or stored in an easily accessible location—and place them in their mouths or on their skin. Another risk is when patients wear a partially detached patch that can transfer to a child they are holding.

Children are particularly vulnerable to a fentanyl overdose because they likely have had no exposure to those types of medications before and because more of the medication is released if the patch is chewed and/or swallowed, according to the FDA. The patches can retain as much as 50% of their potency after wearing for 3 days, the agency warned.

Pharmacists and other health care professionals were asked to educate their patients and caregivers about the appropriate use and disposal of fentanyl patches.

Pharmacists should caution patients to:

• Keep fentanyl patches and other drugs in a secure location that is out of children’s sight and reach. Users should understand that toddlers may think the patch is a sticker, tattoo, or bandage.
• Consider covering the fentanyl patch with an adhesive film to make sure the patch doesn’t come off your body.
• Check throughout the day to make sure— either by touching it or looking at it—that the patch is still in place

Fentanyl users also should be instructed to fold together the adhesive side of the patch and then flush it down the toilet.

The FDA said it was aware of environmental concerns related to potent drugs in the sewage system, but argues that “the risk associated with accidental exposure to this strong narcotic medicine outweighs any potential risk associated with disposal by flushing.”

U.S. Pharmacist Social Connect