Fentanyl, Page 1

Fentanyl transdermal system is indicated for management of persistent, moderate to severe chronic pain that requires continuous, around-the-clock opioid administration for an extended period of time, and cannot be managed by other means.

FENTANYL- fentanyl patch, extended release
Southeast Medical Solutions RX LLC

Full Prescribing Information


Fentanyl transdermal system contains a high concentration of a potent Schedule II opioid agonist, fentanyl. Schedule II opioid substances which include fentanyl, hydromorphone, methadone, morphine, oxycodone, and oxymorphone have the highest potential for abuse and associated risk of fatal overdose due to respiratory depression. Fentanyl can be abused and is subject to criminal diversion. The high content of fentanyl in the patches (fentanyl transdermal system) may be a particular target for abuse and diversion.

Fentanyl transdermal system is indicated for management of persistent , moderate to severe chronic pain that:

  • requires continuous, around-the-clock opioid administration for an extended period of time, and

  • cannot be managed by other means such as non-steroidal analgesics, opioid combination products, or immediate-release opioids

Fentanyl transdermal system should ONLY be used in patients who are already receiving opioid therapy, who have demonstrated opioid tolerance, and who require a total daily dose at least equivalent to fentanyl transdermal system 25 mcg/h. Patients who are considered opioid-tolerant are those who have been taking, for a week or longer, at least 60 mg of morphine daily, or at least 30 mg of oral oxycodone daily, or at least 8 mg of oral hydromorphone daily or an equianalgesic dose of another opioid.

Because serious or life-threatening hypoventilation could occur, fentanyl transdermal system is contraindicated:

  • in patients who are not opioid-tolerant

  • in the management of acute pain or in patients who require opioid analgesia for a short period of time

  • in the management of post-operative pain, including use after out-patient or day surgeries (e.g., tonsillectomies)

  • in the management of mild pain

  • in the management of intermittent pain [e.g., use on an as needed basis (prn)]

(See CONTRAINDICATIONS for further information.)

Since the peak fentanyl levels occur between 24 and 72 hours of treatment, prescribers should be aware that serious or life threatening hypoventilation may occur, even in opioid-tolerant patients, during the initial application period.

The concomitant use of fentanyl transdermal system with all cytochrome P450 3A4 inhibitors (such as ritonavir, ketoconazole, itraconazole, troleandomycin, clarithromycin, nelfinavir, nefazodone, amiodarone, amprenavir, aprepitant, diltiazem, erythromycin, fluconazole, fosamprenavir, grapefruit juice, and verapamil) may result in an increase in fentanyl plasma concentrations, which could increase or prolong adverse drug effects and may cause potentially fatal respiratory depression. Patients receiving fentanyl transdermal system and potent any CYP3A4 inhibitor should be carefully monitored for an extended period of time and dosage adjustments should be made if warranted. (See CLINICAL PHARMACOLOGY – Drug Interactions , WARNINGS , PRECAUTIONS and DOSAGE AND ADMINISTRATION for further information).

The safety of fentanyl transdermal system has not been established in children under 2 years of age. Fentanyl transdermal system should be administered to children only if they are opioid-tolerant and 2 years of age or older (see PRECAUTIONS – Pediatric Use .)

Fentanyl transdermal system is ONLY for use in patients who are already tolerant to opioid therapy of comparable potency. Use in non-opioid tolerant patients may lead to fatal respiratory depression. Overestimating the fentanyl transdermal system dose when converting patients from another opioid medication can result in fatal overdose with the first dose. Due to the mean elimination half-life of 17 hours of fentanyl transdermal system, patients who are thought to have had a serious adverse event, including overdose, will require monitoring and treatment for at least 24 hours.

Fentanyl transdermal system can be abused in a manner similar to other opioid agonists, legal or illicit. This risk should be considered when administering, prescribing, or dispensing fentanyl transdermal system in situations where the healthcare professional is concerned about increased risk of misuse, abuse or diversion.

Persons at increased risk for opioid abuse include those with a personal or family history of substance abuse (including drug or alcohol abuse or addiction) or mental illness (e.g., major depression). Patients should be assessed for their clinical risks for opioid abuse or addiction prior to being prescribed opioids. All patients receiving opioids should be routinely monitored for signs of misuse, abuse and addiction. Patients at increased risk of opioid abuse may still be appropriately treated with modified-release opioid formulations; however, these patients will require intensive monitoring for signs of misuse, abuse, or addiction.

Fentanyl transdermal systems are intended for transdermal use (on intact skin) only. Do not use a fentanyl transdermal system patch if the seal is broken or the patch is cut, damaged, or changed in any way. Using a patch that is cut, damaged, or changed in any way can expose the patient or caregiver to the contents of the patch, which can result in an overdose of fentanyl that may be fatal.

Avoid exposing the fentanyl transdermal system application site and surrounding area to direct external heat sources, such as heating pads or electric blankets, heat or tanning lamps, saunas, hot tubs, and heated water beds, while wearing the system. Avoid taking hot baths or sunbathing. There is a potential for temperature-dependent increases in fentanyl released from the system resulting in possible overdose and death. Patients wearing fentanyl transdermal systems who develop fever or increased core body temperature due to strenuous exertion should be monitored for opioid side effects and the fentanyl transdermal system dose should be adjusted if necessary.


Fentanyl transdermal system is a transdermal system providing continuous systemic delivery of fentanyl, a potent opioid analgesic, for 72 hours. The chemical name is N-Phenyl-N-(1-(2-phenylethyl)-4-piperidinyl) propanamide. The structural formula is:

Fentanyl structural formula
(click image for full-size original)

The molecular weight of fentanyl base is 336.5, and the molecular formula is C22H28N2O. The n-octanol: water partition coefficient is 860:1. The pKa is 8.4.

System Components and Structure

The amount of fentanyl released from each system per hour is proportional to the surface area (25 mcg/h per 10 cm2). The composition per unit area of all system sizes is identical. Each system also contains 0.1 mL of alcohol USP per 10 cm2.

*Nominal delivery rate per hour
25 10 2.5
50 20 5
75 30 7.5
100 40 10

Fentanyl transdermal system is a rectangular transparent unit comprising a protective liner and four functional layers. Proceeding from the outer surface toward the surface adhering to the skin, these layers are:

1) a backing layer of polyester film; 2) a drug reservoir of fentanyl and alcohol USP gelled with hydroxyethyl cellulose; 3) an ethylene-vinyl acetate copolymer membrane that controls the rate of fentanyl delivery to the skin surface; and 4) a fentanyl containing silicone adhesive. Before use, a protective liner covering the adhesive layer is removed and discarded.

Fentanyl transdermal system is a rectangular transparent unit comprising a protective liner and four functional layers. Proceeding from the outer surface toward the surface adhering to the skin, these layers are:

1) a backing layer of polyester film; 2) a drug reservoir of fentanyl and alcohol USP gelled with hydroxyethyl cellulose; 3) an ethylene-vinyl acetate copolymer membrane that controls the rate of fentanyl delivery to the skin surface; and 4) a fentanyl containing silicone adhesive. Before use, a protective liner covering the adhesive layer is removed and discarded.
(click image for full-size original)

The active component of the system is fentanyl. The remaining components are pharmacologically inactive. Less than 0.2 mL of alcohol is also released from the system during use.



Fentanyl is an opioid analgesic. Fentanyl interacts predominantly with the opioid mu-receptor. These mu-binding sites are discretely distributed in the human brain, spinal cord, and other tissues. In clinical settings, fentanyl exerts its principal pharmacologic effects on the central nervous system.

In addition to analgesia, alterations in mood, euphoria, dysphoria, and drowsiness commonly occur. Fentanyl depresses the respiratory centers, depresses the cough reflex, and constricts the pupils. Analgesic blood levels of fentanyl may cause nausea and vomiting directly by stimulating the chemoreceptor trigger zone, but nausea and vomiting are significantly more common in ambulatory than in recumbent patients, as is postural syncope.

Opioids increase the tone and decrease the propulsive contractions of the smooth muscle of the gastrointestinal tract. The resultant prolongation in gastrointestinal transit time may be responsible for the constipating effect of fentanyl. Because opioids may increase biliary tract pressure, some patients with biliary colic may experience worsening rather than relief of pain.

While opioids generally increase the tone of urinary tract smooth muscle, the net effect tends to be variable, in some cases producing urinary urgency, in others, difficulty in urination. At therapeutic dosages, fentanyl usually does not exert major effects on the cardiovascular system. However, some patients may exhibit orthostatic hypotension and fainting.

Histamine assays and skin wheal testing in clinical studies indicate that clinically significant histamine release rarely occurs with fentanyl administration. Clinical assays show no clinically significant histamine release in dosages up to 50 mcg/kg.

Pharmacokinetics(see graph and tables)

Fentanyl transdermal system releases fentanyl from the reservoir at a nearly constant amount per unit time. The concentration gradient existing between the saturated solution of drug in the reservoir and the lower concentration in the skin drives drug release. Fentanyl moves in the direction of the lower concentration at a rate determined by the copolymer release membrane and the diffusion of fentanyl through the skin layers. While the actual rate of fentanyl delivery to the skin varies over the 72-hour application period, each system is labeled with a nominal flux which represents the average amount of drug delivered to the systemic circulation per hour across average skin.

While there is variation in dose delivered among patients, the nominal flux of the systems (25, 50, 75, and 100 mcg of fentanyl per hour) is sufficiently accurate as to allow individual titration of dosage for a given patient. The small amount of alcohol which has been incorporated into the system enhances the rate of drug flux through the rate-limiting copolymer membrane and increases the permeability of the skin to fentanyl.

Following fentanyl transdermal system application, the skin under the system absorbs fentanyl, and a depot of fentanyl concentrates in the upper skin layers. Fentanyl then becomes available to the systemic circulation. Serum fentanyl concentrations increase gradually following initial fentanyl transdermal system application, generally leveling off between 12 and 24 hours and remaining relatively constant, with some fluctuation, for the remainder of the 72-hour application period. Peak serum concentrations of fentanyl generally occurred between 24 and 72 hours after initial application (see Table A). Serum fentanyl concentrations achieved are proportional to the fentanyl transdermal system delivery rate. With continuous use, serum fentanyl concentrations continue to rise for the first few system applications. After several sequential 72-hour applications, patients reach and maintain a steady state serum concentration that is determined by individual variation in skin permeability and body clearance of fentanyl (see graph and Table B).

After system removal, serum fentanyl concentrations decline gradually, falling about 50% in approximately 17 (range 13 to 22) hours. Continued absorption of fentanyl from the skin accounts for a slower disappearance of the drug from the serum than is seen after an IV infusion, where the apparent half-life is approximately 7 (range 3 to 12) hours.

serum fentanyl concentrations figure
Mean (SD) Time to Maximal
Tmax (h)
Mean (SD)
Maximal Concentration
Cmax (ng/mL)
Fentanyl Transdermal System 25 mcg/h 38.1 (18.0) 0.6 (0.3)
Fentanyl Transdermal System 50 mcg/h 34.8 (15.4) 1.4 (0.5)
Fentanyl Transdermal System 75 mcg/h 33.5 (14.5) 1.7 (0.7)
Fentanyl Transdermal System 100 mcg/h 36.8 (15.7) 2.5 (1.2)

NOTE: After system removal there is continued systemic absorption from residual fentanyl in the skin so that serum concentrations fall 50%, on average, in 17 hours.

[70 kg]
Volume of Distribution
Surgical Patients 27 – 75 3 – 8 3 – 12
Hepatically Impaired Patients 3 – 80+ 0.8 – 8+ 4 – 12+
Renally Impaired Patients 30 – 78

NOTE: Information on volume of distribution and half-life not available for renally impaired patients.

Fentanyl plasma protein binding capacity decreases with increasing ionization of the drug. Alterations in pH may affect its distribution between plasma and the central nervous system. Fentanyl accumulates in the skeletal muscle and fat and is released slowly into the blood. The average volume of distribution for fentanyl is 6 L/kg (range 3 to 8; N=8).

Fentanyl is metabolized primarily via human cytochrome P450 3A4 isoenzyme system. In humans, the drug appears to be metabolized primarily by oxidative N-dealkylation to norfentanyl and other inactive metabolites that do not contribute materially to the observed activity of the drug. Within 72 hours of IV fentanyl administration, approximately 75% of the dose is excreted in urine, mostly as metabolites with less than 10% representing unchanged drug. Approximately 9% of the dose is recovered in the feces, primarily as metabolites. Mean values for unbound fractions of fentanyl in plasma are estimated to be between 13 and 21%.

Skin does not appear to metabolize fentanyl delivered transdermally. This was determined in a human keratinocyte cell assay and in clinical studies in which 92% of the dose delivered from the system was accounted for as unchanged fentanyl that appeared in the systemic circulation.

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