Monday, March 06, 2006

Medicine Patches more dangerous when combined with heat?

From the Philadelphia Inquirer:

Medicated patches used by more than ten million people in the USA may become unsafe when heated by exercise, soaking in a hot tub, or even a high fever. Medicated patches include the Duragesic Patch, Ortho Evra's birth control patch, and others.

The FDA said last week it would investigate. The FDA nvestigation comes nearly one year after the agency announced a probe into 120 deaths linked to fentanyl patches such as the ones marketed under the Duragesic brand used for chronic pain. In November, the agency issued a warning about the Orth Evra birth-control patches after a study showed that women who wore the patch had 60 percent more estrogen in their blood than those on the pill.

The problem is most evident with the fentanyl patch, which is 100 times more potent than morphine. Since it was introduced in 1990, the drug has been linked to 120 deaths.

In 2004, patches overall were cited as the primary cause of death in eight cases, including two teens on birth-control patches per the P.I. In 2003, three people died, including a 45-year-old man and a 58-year-old woman on fentanyl pain patches.

Studies as early as 1986 showed that heat can double the rate at which the body absorbs medication, but there were no public warnings until 1994.

There is a PA case that involved a death where a patch was blamed. Kurt Hophan was given a fentanyl pain patch after a back injury. He went to his bedroom at his mother's house in Glenside and fell asleep with a heating pad and an electric blanket.

"When the heat from the pad and the electric blanket came into contact with the patch, the amount of fentanyl released into Mr. Hophan's bloodstream was approximately one hundred (100) times greater than the amount prescribed," according to the judge's ruling in a lawsuit filed against the drug's manufacturer by his mother, Elaine Hophan. He died on March 4, 1994.

In 2001, a jury awarded his mother $5 million in compensatory damages.