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Fentanyl Patches


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Fentanyl patches are a form of opioid medication designed to manage chronic pain in patients who require around-the-clock pain relief. While these patches can be highly effective in providing relief, they also come with risks and considerations that both healthcare professionals and patients should be aware of. This article explores the key aspects of fentanyl patches, including their benefits, risks, proper use, and precautions.

What is Fentanyl?

Fentanyl is a potent synthetic opioid analgesic that is much stronger than morphine or heroin. It works by binding to the body’s opioid receptors, altering the perception of pain and producing feelings of relaxation and euphoria. Due to its potency, fentanyl is typically reserved for severe pain management, such as cancer-related pain or pain in patients who have developed tolerance to other opioids.

Fentanyl Patches:

Fentanyl patches are a unique and convenient delivery system for this potent medication. They are transdermal patches that adhere to the skin and release a controlled amount of fentanyl over an extended period, usually 72 hours. The slow release helps maintain a consistent level of the medication in the bloodstream, providing continuous pain relief.

Benefits of Fentanyl Patches:

  1. Extended Relief: Fentanyl patches offer continuous pain relief for an extended duration, reducing the need for frequent dosing compared to oral medications.
  2. Convenience: Applying a patch every few days eliminates the need for frequent administration of medication, making it a convenient option for patients with chronic pain.
  3. Individualized Dosing: Fentanyl patches come in various strengths, allowing healthcare providers to tailor the dosage to meet the specific needs of each patient.

Risks and Considerations:

  1. Potency and Risk of Overdose: Fentanyl is significantly more potent than other opioids, and the risk of overdose is a serious concern. Patients and healthcare providers must carefully monitor dosage and be vigilant about potential signs of overdose.
  2. Misuse and Addiction: Like other opioids, fentanyl has the potential for misuse and addiction. It is crucial for healthcare professionals to assess patients for a history of substance abuse and monitor for signs of dependency.
  3. Side Effects: Common side effects of fentanyl patches include constipation, nausea, drowsiness, and dizziness. Patients should report any persistent or severe side effects to their healthcare providers.
  4. Proper Disposal: Fentanyl patches should be disposed of properly to prevent accidental exposure, especially in households with children or pets. Unused patches should be returned to a pharmacy for safe disposal.

Precautions and Responsible Use:

  1. Strict Adherence to Prescribed Dosage: Patients must strictly adhere to the prescribed dosage and never alter the patch or try to increase the dose on their own.
  2. Open Communication with Healthcare Providers: Patients should maintain open communication with their healthcare providers, reporting any changes in pain levels, side effects, or concerns promptly.
  3. Regular Monitoring: Healthcare providers should closely monitor patients on fentanyl patches, conducting regular assessments of pain levels, potential side effects, and signs of misuse or dependence.

Fentanyl patches can be an effective tool in managing chronic pain when used responsibly and under the guidance of healthcare professionals. It is crucial for both patients and healthcare providers to be aware of the potential risks and to take necessary precautions to ensure the safe and effective use of fentanyl patches in the treatment of chronic pain. Open communication, regular monitoring, and proper disposal are essential elements of responsible fentanyl patch use.

The FDA (Food and Drug Administration) is reminding patients who use “fentanyl transdermal system pain patches (Duragesic and its generics) to always store, use, and dispose of them carefully to prevent unintended poisonings and other harm, especially to children and pets.”

Fentanyl should only be handled by the patient or the patient’s caregivers.  Fentanyl is a powerful medication that comes in the form of a patch, it is used to relieve severe pain.  The patch can cause harm or even kill a child or pet after it has been worn for 3 days because the Fentanyl patch still contains enough fentanyl to cause harm.

The FDA recommends the following steps for safe medication disposal:

Medicine Take-Back Programs

Medicine take-back programs for disposal are a good way to remove expired, unwanted, or unused medicines from the home and reduce the chance that others may accidentally take the medicine. Contact your city or county government’s household trash and recycling service to see if there is a medicine take-back program in your community and learn about any special rules regarding which medicines can be taken back. You can also talk to your pharmacist to see if he or she knows of other medicine disposal programs in your area or visit the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration’s website for information on National Prescription Drug Take-Back Events.

Disposal in Household Trash

If no medicine take-back program is available in your area, you can also follow these simple steps to dispose of most medicines in the household trash:1

  • Mix medicines (do NOT crush tablets or capsules) with an unpalatable substance such as kitty litter or used coffee grounds;
  • Place the mixture in a container such as a sealed plastic bag; and
  • Throw the container in your household trash.
  • Before throwing out your empty pill bottle or other empty medicine packaging, remember to scratch out all information on the prescription label to make it unreadable.

Flushing of Certain Medicines

There is a small number of medicines that may be especially harmful and, in some cases, fatal with just one dose if they are used by someone other than the person for whom the medicine was prescribed. To prevent accidental ingestion by children, pets, or anyone else, a few medicines have specific disposal instructions indicating they should be flushed down the sink or toilet as soon as they are no longer needed, and when they cannot be disposed of through a medicine take-back program. Click here for a list of medicines recommended for disposal by flushing. For example, patients in assisted living communities using fentanyl patches for pain should immediately flush their used or unneeded patches down the toilet. When you dispose of these patches and certain other powerful medicines down the sink or toilet you help to keep others safe by ensuring that these medicines cannot be used again or accidentally ingested and cause harm.

You may have also received disposal directions for these medicines when you picked up your prescription. If your medicine is on this list, and you did not receive information containing disposal instructions along with your dispensed prescription, you can find instructions on how to dispose of the medicines at DailyMed, by searching on the drug name and then looking in one of the following sections of the prescribing information:

  • Information for Patients and Caregivers
  • Patient Information
  • Patient Counseling Information
  • Safety and Handling Instructions
  • Medication Guide

FDA remains committed to working with other federal agencies and medicine manufacturers to develop alternative, safe disposal policies. Below is some additional information about flushing medicine when it is no longer needed. If you have additional questions about disposing of your medicine, please contact us


12 mcg/hr, 25 mcg/hr, 37.5 mcg/hr, 50 mcg/hr, 62.5 mcg/hr, 75 mcg/hr, 87.5 mcg/hr, 100 mcg/hr


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