Blocks, powders, and pills in pastel and other colors are popping up in pharmacies around the country.
New, multi-colored fentanyl might appeal to young people or children and convince them that it’s safe. “I think the big difference people are concerned about is with regard to accidental ingestion. People are worried that their kids will take one of these pills thinking they’re another drug or even thinking they’re some sort of candy,” remarked NYU Langone Health Associate Professor Joseph Palamar. “I don’t think the color of the pills greatly increases danger to people who don’t use fentanyl, but there is always a possibility of someone who uses fentanyl leaving their pills around in the reach of children,” he added.
The DEA is concerned as well. Earlier this year, the agency issued a public warning about an “alarming emerging trend” of “colorful fentanyl available across the United States.”
This synthetic opioid is about 100 times stronger than morphine. Fentanyl is very effective for cancer patients and other people in constant and excruciating pain. However, a drug this powerful is also very addictive.
More recently, multi-colored fentanyl sales have drawn unwanted comparison with the kid-friendly Juul flavors that once dominated the company’s sales figures. Although there’s no evidence that multi-colored fentanyl is being marketed to children, many people assume that brightly-colored pills are relatively harmless.
Originally, fentanyl was an IV anesthetic used only in hospitals. However, mostly because of legal and manufacturing changes in the pharmaceutical industry during the late 1980s, fentanyl became available as a patch.
Fentanyl effects include confusion, drowsiness, dizziness, nausea, relaxation, euphoria, pain relief, sedation, vomiting, urinary retention, pupillary constriction, and perhaps worst of all, respiratory depression. People who overdose on fentanyl essentially stop breathing.
The Opioid Epidemic
A brief 100-word letter to the editor in the New England Journal of Medicine in 1980 may have started the opioid epidemic:
“Recently, we examined our current files to determine the incidence of narcotic addiction in 39,946 hospitalized medical patients who were monitored consecutively. Although there were 11,882 patients who received at least one narcotic preparation, there were only four cases of reasonably well documented addiction in patients who had no history of addiction. The addiction was considered major in only one instance. The drugs implicated were meperidine in two patients, Percodan in one, and hydromorphone in one. We conclude that despite widespread use of narcotic drugs in hospitals, the development of addiction is rare in medical patients with no history of addiction.”
That’s a very small sample size and a carefully worded conclusion. So, at first, researchers largely ignored this letter. Later, in 1996, when Purdue Pharma unveiled Oxycontin, references in medical reports tripled. Nearly all these references cited this report as evidence that powerful opioids were generally safe.
That was also about the same time the government changed advertising rules. It allowed manufacturers, like Purdue Pharma, to market their wares directly to consumers. In fact, Oxycontin ads were among the first to appear on television. The advertisements worked. People who knew about powerful painkillers were more likely to ask their doctors about them. In many cases, the doctors were happy to oblige their patients.
What We’re Doing About It
Since 1996, drug companies have made immense quantities of money by selling fentanyl and other dangerous opioids. Drug shipment companies have made even more money. The Controlled Substances Act requires these companies to ask the right questions before they ship dangerous drugs. However, these companies were usually content to load boxes onto trucks and cash their checks.
At the risk of being simplistic, these companies created a mess, and cash-strapped cities and counties had to clean it up. These governments had to hire more police officers, expand their emergency medical services, and offer more social services. Our New York opioid epidemic lawyers represent loved ones and also counties (and have won jury verdicts and multi-million dollar settlements), and for the taxpayers who are stuck with these bills.
Our experienced attorneys use advanced legal theories, like creating a public nuisance, to obtain compensation. We use the same approach to obtain maximum compensation for individual victims, and groups of victims, in all kinds of personal injury cases.
All injury victims need and deserve compensation. For a free consultation with an experienced personal injury attorney in New York, contact Napoli Shkolnik PLLC. We handle a wide range of cases on a nationwide basis and recover no fees until we win your case.