Actiq is a powerful narcotic painkiller in the form of a lollipop that is manufactured by Cephalon, Inc. The drug is delivered to the bloodstream by a lollipop-like lozenge; when placed against the inner cheek, pain is relieved in minutes. Actiq is also administered by transdermal patches and by injection. The active ingredient, fentanyl citrate, is a highly addictive narcotic which is approximately 80 times more potent than morphine.
The FDA approved the Actiq lollipop in 1998 for treatment of severe pain in cancer patients. However, Actiq is apparently being prescribed to thousands of people for off label treatment of non-cancer related pain. It has been estimated that in the first half of 2006 approximately 99% of the 187,076 Actiq prescriptions filled in the U.S. were not for cancer patients.
The Actiq lollipop has been associated with the deaths of at least 127 people. There have been another 91 FDA reported incidents of severe side effects. Side effects have ranged from dehydration to respiratory problems along with further issues associated with the highly addictive nature of the narcotic. Forty-seven of the deaths have been linked to addiction, misuse, or overdose. Two deaths have reportedly involved children who mistook the Actiq lollipop for candy.