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Four deaths have been linked to the recently approved painkiller Fentora. The deaths are said to be due to improper use, and the FDA says it is monitoring the situation.

The FDA approved the drug in September for use only by cancer patients already taking morphine or other prescription narcotics for their pain. Fentora contains fentanyl, which is similar to morphine, but far more potent.

Two of the patients were prescribed the drug for headaches, and the other deaths were from a suicide and a patient who took more of the drug than recommended. None of the patients that died using this drug had cancer, which could mean that other people are using the drug for an improper use.

Cephalon, the maker of Fentora sent out a letter Thursday, September 13, that stated who should be prescribed the drug and in what amounts. Also the company wrote that Fentora should not be used as a substitute for the older version, Actiq, because Fentora is stronger.

Since prescribing a drug for an “off-label” purpose is not illegal, the problem may persist. Over 78,000 prescriptions for Fentora tablets have been written since October.

For more information on this subject, please refer to our section on Drugs, Medical Devices, and Implants.

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