The fentanyl patch, sold under the name Duragesic, has been tested on patients with chronic pain and was found to produce the same pain relief as opioids but with fewer intestinal problems and side effects.
Fentanyl is a narcotic and is a member of the same group of drugs as opium and morphine. It binds with opiate receptors in the CNS and alters the perception and emotional response to pain through an unknown mechanism. Fentanyl may increase the tolerance for pain and decrease the perception of suffering, although the presence of pain itself may still be recognized.
Although fentanyl has been around for at least 40 years, only recently has it been used in patches. These patches are particularly useful for long-term, stable pain where the cause of the pain is not progressing rapidly. The patches are the size of a small bandage and are coated with a specific drug or hormone. When placed on the skin, medication is immediately released into the blood system. The patch is initially worn for six days; after this time, the patch is replaced every three days.
Most patients reported constant pain relief over a period of three days. When compared to morphine, patients reported greater satisfaction with fentanyl, which produced fewer reported side effects.