A medical malpractice lawsuit was filed against the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago by the husband and sons of Kerry Rupright, who suffered from a painful inflammation of her spinal cord. According to FOX Chicago News (09/11/10; myfoxchicago.com), Rupright was given a fentanyl patch for her pain and was then transferred to the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. An attorney for the victim's family says Rupright became "drowsy, lethargic, and non-responding," which is symptomatic of fentanyl poisoning.
Instead of removing the fentanyl patch, Rupright's dosage was reduced and she was given Ambien and other medications. Four days later, Rupright, a 28-year-old mother of two, died.
The Rupright's lawsuit against the Rehabilitation Institute was settled for $3.75 million, although the Institute did not admit liability. In a statement provided to FOX News, the Institute said its staff handled the case properly.
The first warnings about fentanyl pain patches were issued by the US Food and Drug Administration in 2005, about a year after Rupright was given her fentanyl patch. Further warnings were issued in 2007. FDA warnings about the patches included problems with defective patches and patient misuse of the patch. There may also be cases of patches being prescribed in situations in which they are not appropriate.
Fentanyl patches are designed to be used in patients with chronic pain who have a tolerance for strong painkillers. They are not meant for use in post-operative cases, where the pain is temporary or where patients have not developed tolerance to other opioids.
READ MORE DURAGESIC FENTANYL PATCH LEGAL NEWS
"[Fentanyl] a powerful synthetic narcotic, provides an example of continued problems with an important high-alert drug… For years, use of fentanyl patches has presented an array of drug safety risks, which appear to be unresolved," the organization writes.
Meanwhile, in a report about 2008 adverse drug events, the organization says fentanyl is 100 times more potent than morphine and was "the suspect drug in more cases of preventable medication error than any other drug."