These are opioid narcotics prescribed for migraine headaches (instead of their intended use for cancer patients) causing death.
What is Actiq®?
Actiq® is an opioid narcotic which contains fentanyl and is used to treat breakthrough pain, the kind that flares up suddenly and doesn't go away with normal pain medication. Actiq® is available in the form of a lozenge and delivered to the bloodstream by licking the lozenge. The active ingredient, fentanyl citrate, is a highly addictive narcotic which works by dulling the area that signals pain in the brain.
Actiq® is manufactured by Cephalon™ and was approved by the FDA for use in Cancer treatment only since the patients often suffer from intense spells of pain which other narcotics can't help ease. Actiq® is prescribed only to those patients who are "opioid tolerant." (Meaning patients taking other strong painkillers like morphine for more than a week at a time)
Actiq® "off the label" Abuse
However, in the year 2007, there was a study conducted which showed that only 1% of Actiq's users were actually cancer patients. Over 90% of the usage of the drug was "off the label" which meant that Actiq® was being prescribed for medical conditions other than cancer — a practice that is illegal.
Doctors were seen to be prescribing Actiq® for other pain related maladies like migraines, back aches, and injuries which required pain relief as well. Off-label prescriptions result in high incidences of side effects both known and those causing adverse side effects including death. Since the drug is an opioid narcotic, there are high chances that it can be abused leading to overdose. For those patients that aren't "opioid tolerant," Actiq® shouldn't be prescribed at all since it could lead to respiratory complications.
These off label prescriptions have led to at least 127 deaths and 91 cases of severe injuries due to the side effects of the drug. Side effects can range from respiratory issues to dehydration and related problems.
Over a third of the deaths have been linked to addiction or overdose. Other Actiq® side effects are rashes or hives, excessive drowsiness or dizziness, hallucinations, fatigue, slowing of the heartbeat and breathing difficulties.
Cephalon's aggressive marketing
This exceptional "off the label" usage of Actiq® prompted the FDA's office to investigate the marketing strategies of Cephalon™. It is alleged that Cephalon™ followed aggressive marketing practices through which the medical representatives of the companies promoted the drug to all types of doctors, rather than just oncologists. The company defended this by saying that many patients often visit general practitioners for the treatment of cancer more than they visit an oncologist. This aggressive marketing led to Actiq® growing its sales from tens of millions of dollars to over $500 Million in the year 2006.
Actiq® initially had sales of around $15 Million in 2000, but as a result of Cephalon's aggressive marketing, the 2006 sales were over $600 million dollars. After these allegations resulting in a federal lawsuit, the company eventually pleaded guilty to violations and had to pay a fine of $425 Million.
What is Fentora®?
Cephalon™ bought the drug Fentora® from Cima Labs™ in 2006. Fentora® is also an opioid narcotic to be prescribed in the case of breakthrough pain in cancer patients. The drug is over 4 times more powerful than Actiq® and is sold in the form of a pill. However, months after it was approved, in 2007, it was reported that Fentora® was also being sold "off the label" and sales data showed more than 80,000 prescriptions for the drug. Most of these prescriptions were not to cancer patients but to those suffering from migraines, back pain and other aches.
After several deaths were reported due to the use of Fentora®, Cephalon™ sent across a warning letter to health practitioners across the country regarding the improper use of the drug and its adverse side effects which could ultimately lead to death. Currently the company is being investigated by various states' district attorneys for improper marketing of the drug.
Actiq® and Fentora® Overdose and Death lawsuits
Actiq® and Fentora® are two very powerful drugs used only to treat breakthrough pain in cancer patients. Directions of use, prescribed by a qualified medical practitioner, must be followed for using either Fentora® or Actiq® to prevent overdosing which can result in the severe side effects associated with them.
If you or your loved ones have used Actiq® or Fentora® and have suffered from an overdose and severe side effects, please call our San Antonio Fentora Overdose Lawsuit Attorneys or Actiq Injury Lawyer for advice.
Our Fentora and Actiq Death Lawsuit Attorneys are reviewing potential Fentora and Actiq Overdose and Death lawsuits on behalf of people whose loved ones have been killed by the drug. CONTACT US TODAY!