Fentanyl (Absorbed through the skin)


Fentanyl (FEN-ta-nil)

Treats moderate to severe chronic pain. This medicine is a narcotic pain reliever.

Brand Name(s)

Duragesic, Novaplus Fentanyl

There may be other brand names for this medicine.

When This Medicine Should Not Be Used

Do not use this medicine if you have had an allergic reaction to fentanyl or to silicone adhesives. Do not use this patch until after you have tried other narcotic (opioid) medicines. Do not use this patch if you need pain medicine for a short time only or need it only at certain times. Do not use this medicine if you have trouble breathing, such as with severe asthma, or if you have paralytic ileus.

How to Use This Medicine


  • This is a very strong medicine. This medicine can cause trouble breathing and other serious health problems, including death. No one else should ever use your patch for any reason. Talk to your doctor if you do not understand the directions or warnings.
  • Your doctor will tell you how many patches to use, where to apply them, and how often to apply them. Do not use more patches or apply them more often than your doctor tells you to.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water before and after applying a patch.
  • Fentanyl skin patches come in sealed pouches. Do not use this medicine if the pouch seal is broken or if the patch is cut, damaged, or changed in any way.
  • Leave the patch in its sealed wrapper until you are ready to put it on. Tear the wrapper open carefully. NEVER CUT the wrapper or the patch with scissors. Do not use any patch that has been cut by accident.
  • Do not use soap, lotion, alcohol, or oil on your skin before you apply the patch. Wash the skin only with clear water. Let your skin dry completely. Do not shave the skin where you will apply the patch. If you must get rid of some hair, cut the hair with a pair of scissors.
  • The patient instructions will show the body areas where you can wear the patch. When putting on each new patch, choose a different place within these areas. Do not put the new patch on the same place you wore the last one. Be sure to remove the old patch before applying a new one.After you apply the patch, push down on it with the palm of your hand for 30 seconds to make sure it sticks to your skin.
  • For young children and people with a loss of mental function, apply the patch where it cannot be reached, such as the upper back. Check the patch occasionally to make sure it is still okay.
  • Do not put the patch over burns, cuts, or irritated skin.
  • Put on a new patch if the old one has fallen off and cannot be reapplied.If a patch is loose, tape it to your skin with first aid tape.
  • Never put the patch in your mouth.
  • Wash off any gel that gets directly on your skin right away with clear water. The gel is only supposed to go through the patch and onto your skin.
  • Water should not affect the patch. You may take a shower or go swimming while you wear it.
  • Drink plenty of fluids to help avoid constipation.
  • This medicine should come with a Medication Guide. Read and follow these instructions carefully. Ask your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions. Ask your pharmacist for the Medication Guide if you do not have one.

If a dose is missed:

  • If you forget to wear or change a patch, put one on as soon as you can. If it is almost time to put on your next patch, wait until then to apply a new patch and skip the one you missed. Do not apply extra patches to make up for a missed dose.

How to Store and Dispose of This Medicine

  • Store the patches at room temperature in the original package, away from heat, moisture, and direct light.
  • This medicine can cause serious side effects if used by adults or children who are not used to strong narcotic pain medicines. Make sure you store the medicine in a safe and secure place to prevent others from getting it. Keep the medicine away from pets.
  • Throw any used patch away so that children or pets cannot get to it. There is still enough medicine in a used patch to make a child or pet very sick. Fold a used patch in half with the sticky sides together and flush it down the toilet, and then wash your hands thoroughly with soap and water. You may also place the used patch in the patch disposal unit to be thrown in the trash. When you stop treatment, take all of the leftover patches out of the packages, fold them in half, and throw them away.
  • Keep all medicine away from children and never share your medicine with anyone.If a child is exposed to this medicine, call Poison Control or an emergency room right away.

Drugs and Foods to Avoid

Ask your doctor or pharmacist before using any other medicine, including over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products.

  • Make sure your doctor knows if you also use amiodarone (Cordarone®), aprepitant (Emend®), diltiazem (Cardizem®), nefazodone (Serzone®), verapamil (Isoptin®), muscle relaxers, medicine to treat an infection (such as clarithromycin, erythromycin, fluconazole, itraconazole, ketoconazole, troleandomycin, Biaxin®, Diflucan®, Ery-tab®, Nizoral®), medicine to treat HIV/AIDS (such as amprenavir, fosamprenavir, nelfinavir, ritonavir, Lexiva®, Kaletra®, Norvir®), a benzodiazepine medicine (such as alprazolam, clonazepam, diazepam, lorazepam, Xanax®), a phenothiazine medicine (such as prochlorperazine, Compazine®, Mellaril®, Phenergan®, Thorazine®, Trilafon®), or an MAO inhibitor (MAOI) (such as Eldepryl®, Marplan®, Nardil®, Parnate®) within the past 14 days.
  • Tell your doctor if you are using any medicines that make you sleepy. These include sleeping pills, cold and allergy medicine, narcotic pain relievers, and sedatives.
  • Do not drink alcohol while you are using this medicine.
  • Do not eat grapefruit or drink grapefruit juice while you are using this medicine.

Warnings While Using This Medicine

  • Make sure your doctor knows if you are pregnant, if you are breastfeeding, or if you or anyone in your family has ever had depression or other mental or emotional problems.
  • Make sure your doctor knows if you or anyone in your family has ever abused drugs or alcohol or had a drug addiction. Tell your doctor if you have kidney disease, liver disease (including cirrhosis), gallbladder disease, heart disease, low blood pressure, heart rhythm problems, or pancreas problems. Tell your doctor if you have breathing problems, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), cor pulmonale, hypoxia or hypercapnia (low oxygen or high carbon dioxide level in your blood), or hypoventilation (breathing too slowly). Tell your doctor if you have a recent head injury, a brain tumor, or a history of seizures.
  • Do not use more of this medicine or take it more often than your doctor tells you to. This can be life-threatening. Symptoms of an overdose include dizziness or weakness, trouble breathing, slow or shallow breathing, slow heartbeat, fainting, or extreme sleepiness. Call your doctor right away if you notice these symptoms.
  • Do not let the patch get too hot. It may release too much medicine too quickly. Avoid direct sunlight, and do not use a heating pad, electric blanket, heated water bed, sauna, sun lamp, or hot tub. Call your doctor if you have a fever higher than 102 degrees.
  • This medicine should not be used by a child younger than 2 years old or by a child who has not received a narcotic (opioid) medicine before.
  • Be careful about letting other people come in contact with your patch. The patch could stick to someone else, such as when you hug them or when someone helps you put the patch on. Wash off any medicine that gets on another person right away with clear water.
  • This medicine may be habit-forming. If you feel that the medicine is not working as well, do not use more than your prescribed dose. Call your doctor for instructions.
  • This medicine may make you dizzy or drowsy. Stand or sit up slowly if you are dizzy. Do not drive, use machines, or do anything else that could be dangerous until you know how this medicine affects you.
  • Make sure any doctor or dentist who treats you knows that you are using this medicine.
  • Do not stop using this medicine suddenly without asking your doctor. You may need to slowly decrease your dose before stopping it completely.
  • This medicine may cause constipation. This is more common if you use it for a long time. Ask your doctor if you should also use a laxative to prevent and treat constipation.
  • Your pain will not get better right away. It may take a day or longer for the medicine to reach its full effect.
  • Your doctor will need to check your progress at regular visits while you are using this medicine. Be sure to keep all appointments.

Possible Side Effects While Using This Medicine

Call your doctor right away if you notice any of these side effects:

  • Allergic reaction: Itching or hives, swelling in your face or hands, swelling or tingling in your mouth or throat, chest tightness, trouble breathing
  • Anxiety, depression, nervousness, mood or behavior changes
  • Change in how much or how often you urinate
  • Chest pain
  • Fast, slow, or uneven heartbeat
  • Fever, chills, cough, sore throat, and body aches
  • Lightheadedness, dizziness, fainting
  • Problems with vision, speech, or walking
  • Swelling in your hands, ankles, or feet
  • Tremors or seizures
  • Trouble breathing, slow or shallow breathing, sighing, extreme weakness or sleepiness

If you notice these less serious side effects, talk with your doctor:

  • Headache
  • Mild tiredness, weakness, confusion
  • Nausea, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, stomach pain
  • Redness, itching, or mild skin rash where the patch is put on your skin
  • Sweating

If you notice other side effects that you think are caused by this medicine, tell your doctor

Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088

Version Info

  • Last Reviewed on 06/12/2013

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This page was last updated: June 27, 2013

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