Pharmacists and pediatricians are sounding the alarm about the proper disposal of pain and other medicated patches after a series of deaths nationwide were attributed to curious children finding used patches and either swallowing them or sticking them to their skin.
Fentanyl patches are designed to deliver a slow, steady dose of narcotic pain medication over a 72-hour period. Even after three days of use, about half of the total drug amount is still in the patch, so proper disposal is essential to avoid accidental overdose.
The National Library of Medicine describes the proper way to dispose of these patches:
Throw away any patches that are outdated or no longer needed by carefully removing the adhesive backing, folding the sticky sides of each patch together so that it sticks to itself, and flushing the patches down the toilet. Throw away the pouches and protective liners in the trash. Wash your hands well with water after throwing away fentanyl patches. Do not put unneeded or used fentanyl skin patches in a garbage can.
Fentanyl is one of only a few medicines the US Food and Drug Administration says must be flushed down the toilet. The instruction is intended as a safety measure to keep curious children from finding them.
If you’re prescribed a fentanyl patch, the Institute for Safe Medicine Practices says you need to be very careful around children.
- Do not let children see you apply a patch.
- Do not apply the patch where children can see it.
- Do not refer to the patches as stickers, tattoos, or Band-Aids.
- Frequently check to be sure the patch has not fallen off, particularly after exercise, bathing, or sleeping.
Fentanyl patches are only intended for patients experiencing long-term, chronic pain who have tried taking a high dose of prescription pain medicine for a week or more without relief. For these patients, the pain relief can be truly life changing, but the patches need to be used and discarded with extreme care to avoid tragic consequences.