ACTIQ (fentanyl) is a powerful pain killer used to treat breakthrough pain in cancer patients who have developed a tolerance to standard opioid painkillers. It is a powerful and fast-acting drug, sold in the form of a lollipop. While it is a godsend for a small subset of patients, ACTIQ carries an extremely high risk of fatal overdose.


ACTIQ is a very powerful pain medication used to treat severe breakthrough pain in cancer patients who are already taking narcotics for their persistent pain. Severe pain is a very serious problem for some cancer patients. As the disease progresses the pain becomes worse and the pain medications less effective in controlling it.

Uncontrolled pain contributes to a decline in health and makes treatments less effective. Over time cancer patients have to take stronger and stronger pain killers, and they build up a tolerance to these drugs. Even when the pain is kept relatively under control, they can experience excruciating bouts of breakthrough pain. That is where ACTIQ comes in. It takes effect very quickly and it has to be very strong to be effective in these patients.

Off-Label Marketing

ACTIQ is only appropriate for patients who are receiving round-the-clock treatment with opioid drugs and have already built up a tolerance to those drugs. People who are not already opioid-tolerant can easily and quickly overdose and die if they use ACTIQ.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approves medications for specific uses. Any other use is called “off-label”. Doctors can legally prescribe drugs off-label if they believe it is in the patient’s best interest. Drug makers, however, cannot market their products for off-label uses.

Off-label prescribing is a common practice and with many drugs it is harmless or even beneficial to patients. With some drugs, however, off-label prescribing is extremely dangerous. ACTIQ is one of them.

Unfortunately, Off-label marketing of ACTIQ has led doctors to prescribe the drug for pain such as headaches, back pain, and knee pain.

In 2008, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that Cephalon Inc., maker of ACTIQ, would enter a criminal plea and pay $425 million for off-label marketing of three drugs, including ACTIQ.

According to the DOJ press release, Cephalon marketed ACTIQ for use in patients who were not opiod-tolerant, and told its sales representatives to focus on doctors who were not cancer or pain specialists, and to promote the drug to these doctors for off-label uses.

IF you have been harmed by ACTIQ or lost a loved one to ACTIQ overdose, please find an ACTIQ injury attorney in your area right away.