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Oxycodone pain pills. Photo: John Moore/Getty Images

Federal regulators and fentanyl manufacturers didn't take action when it became clear that highly potent fentanyl products were being inappropriately prescribed to as many as half of the patients taking them, according to a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

How it works: The type of fentanyl in question is approved by the Food and Drug Administration only for adult cancer patents who have already built up a tolerance to less potent opioids.

  • An FDA monitoring program requires that all doctors, pharmacists and patients involved in prescribing, dispensing and using these drugs certify that they understand their proper use.
  • The FDA also requires manufacturers to demonstrate that they are in compliance with the rules.
  • In surveys by drugmakers, most doctors, pharmacists and patients indicated that they understood how these fentanyl drugs were supposed to be used, but some providers were prescribing them for off-label use anyways.

The bottom line: In 2016, drugmakers found that between 34.6% and 55.4% of patients receiving this kind of fentanyl did not have opioid tolerance, meaning the drug was being misused.

  • Despite this information, neither the FDA nor drugmakers took action to end the inappropriate prescribing.

Go deeper: Opioids app aims to lower response times for overdose victims

Go deeper

Updated 50 mins ago - Axios Twin Cities

In photos: Thousands rally for George Floyd ahead of Derek Chauvin's trial

Demonstrators on March 7 outside the Hennepin County Government Center, where the trial of former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, charged with murdering George Floyd, will begin in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Photo: Chandan Khanna/AFP via Getty Images

Thousands of protesters marched through Minneapolis' streets Sunday, urging justice for George Floyd on the eve of the start of former police officer Derek Chauvin's trial over the 46-year-old's death, per AFP.

The big picture: Chauvin faces charges for second-degree murder and manslaughter over Floyd's death last May, which ignited massive nationwide and global protests against racism and for police reform. His trial is due to start Monday, with jury selection procedures.

Caitlin Owens, author of Vitals
5 hours ago - Health

Pfizer CEO feels "liberated" after taking COVID vaccine

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla. Photo: "Axios on HBO"

Pfizer CEO Albert Bourla tells "Axios on HBO" that he recently received his first of two doses of the company's coronavirus vaccine.

Why it matters: Bourla told CNBC in December that company polling found that one of the most effective ways to increase confidence in the vaccine was to have the CEO take it.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
5 hours ago - Economy & Business

Ripple CEO: SEC lawsuit is "bad for crypto" in the U.S.

Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse tells "Axios on HBO" that if his company loses a lawsuit brought by U.S. regulators, it would put the country at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to cryptocurrencies.

Between the lines: The SEC in December sued Ripple, and Garlinghouse personally, for allegedly selling over $1.3 billion in unregistered securities. Ripple's response is that its cryptocurrency, called XRP, didn't require registration because it's an asset rather than a security.

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