Fentanyl transdermal system (FTS) is intended only for patients with prior opioid tolerance. The purpose of this study is to identify the proportion of new FTS users who had evidence of prior opioid tolerance, by dosage strength, in FDA's Sentinel System.
We identified new FTS episodes (183-day washout) from 2009 through 2013. Members were <65 years and enrolled in medical and pharmacy coverage for 183 days prior to initial FTS dispensing (index). We assessed the proportion of users with prior tolerance stratified by dosage strength of FTS using four definitions of opioid tolerance: ≥30-mg oxycodone equivalents/day in each of 7 consecutive days immediately prior to index; ≥30-mg oxycodone equivalents/day for any 7 days in the 30 days prior to index (secondary); any dose in each of 7 days in the 7 consecutive days immediately prior to index (tertiary); and any dose for any 7 days in the 30 days prior to index (quaternary).
Of 44 450 episodes of 25 mcg/hr FTS, 37% met the primary definition, and 77% met the quaternary definition. Of 3507 episodes of 100 mcg/hr FTS, 57% and 74% met the primary and quaternary definitions, respectively. Those aged 25 to 34 years had the highest proportion of episodes with prior tolerance; those aged 55 to 64 accounted for more of the episodes overall.
In Sentinel, many new users of FTS did not have evidence of prior opioid tolerance by the primary definition, ie, the product label definition, which is the minimum standard for the lowest FTS dose (12 mcg/hr), especially at the highest strength (100 mcg/hr). Validation of this metric is warranted, but our findings suggest the need for further prescriber education regarding appropriate prescribing of FTS.