The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has said that a number of people have died because they did not use patches that release the painkiller fentanyl properly.
And the FDA said that some of the deaths came after doctors prescribed the patches to the wrong patients.
The drug is supposed to be given to people such as cancer patients who suffer from chronic pain. Yet the FDA found that some doctors were prescribing it for headaches or post-surgical pain.
However, it added that some patients were also accidentally overdosing by using the patches incorrectly.
FDA pain chief Dr Bob Rappaport said: “While these products fill an important need, improper use and misuse can be life-threatening.
“It is crucial that doctors prescribe these products appropriately, and that patients use them correctly.”
The FDA revealed that it has now ordered all of the pharmaceutical firms which make fentanyl patches to create special “medication guides” for patients that spell out the dangers of overdoses and improper use in easy-to-understand language.
The FDA first issued a warning about the patches in 2005, when it announced it was investigating 120 deaths among users.
The agency did not reveal how many more deaths had been reported since it issued its initial warning.
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