Fentanyl: 7 things to know about the drug that killed Prince

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Autopsy results released last Thursday indicate that Prince Rogers Nelson, the musician commonly known as Prince, died from an accidental overdose of fentanyl.

Here are seven things to know about the drug:

  1. Fentanyl is up to 50 times more potent than morphine, leading to large numbers of accidental overdoses. The New York Times referred to the drug as heroin's deadly cousin.

  2. Fentanyl is used sparingly for cancer patients who are already on painkillers but experience breakthrough pain, as many other analgesics carry fewer risks and effectively eliminate pain.

  3. While physicians are not advised to prescribe the drug for acute postoperative pain, some do, which can lead to serious patient complications.

  4. From 2000 to 2016, fentanyl was cited in 44,284 adverse reaction reports in the U.S., with 32,389 cases reported as serious.

  5. Name brands of fentanyl, including Subsys, Actiq, Fentora, Abstraland and Onsolis, are some of the most expensive analgesics on the market.

  6. Naxalone, the antidote to opioid overdoses, recently spiked in price, causing shortages in health centers across the country.

  7. The prescription rates for opioid painkillers vary largely from state to state. Potential factors for this variation include a lack of physician agreement on when to prescribe opioid pain medications, increased demand from patients who use opioids for non-medical purposes and the presence of pain clinics that prescribe large quantities to people who might not actually need them.

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