A painkiller used by cancer patients has killed four people that were using the drug improperly. The harmful drug, Fentora, is to be used when morphine or other narcotics do not work for pain relief. One of the people that died after taking the drug was trying to commit suicide. Fentora is manufactured by Cephalon Inc.
Fentanyl is classified as a Schedule II controlled substance with an abuse liability similar to other opioid analgesics, the company says in its letters. The similar medications include morphine, oxycodone, hydromorphone, oxymorphone and methadone, all having the highest potential for abuse and risk of fatal overdose due to respiratory depression.
Cephalon warned doctors not to give Fentora to patients who are opioid non-tolerant or suffer acute pain, postoperative pain, headache, migraine, or sports injuries, even if they are suitable for receiving other opioids on an as needed basis. Doctors are advised also not to substitute Fentora on a one-for-one basis for another, older fentanyl drug called Actiq, which is much weaker than Fentora.
The FDA has placed a warning letter on its website for the drug. Strict dosing instructions for the drug have been given to doctors.