Toxic reaction to prescription painkiller causes death of Stanhope mum-of-two, an inquest heard

CONCERNS were raised about the care of patients on medication for chronic pain at an inquest into the death of a mother-of-two today (Friday, February 28).

Charlotte Leanne Allen died at her home in Willard Grove, Stanhope, County Durham, on April 17 last year.

A post-mortem indicated the most likely cause to be a toxic reaction to fentanyl – an effective pain killer similar to morphine which can prove fatal in high doses.

An inquest at Crook heard how the 37-year-old had suffered with abdominal pain and reccurring chest infections for years before being diagnosed with atypical cystic fibrosis, a milder form of the genetic life-shortening disease, in 2010.

She was taking a range of medicines to manage her symptoms, including fentanyl in patch-form.

Mrs Allen’s GP, Dr Stephen Lumb, and her husband, David Allen, both confirmed she was usually careful and precise about taking her medicine.

Toxicology specialist Professor Robert Forrest said a rise in body temperature due to an infection or a change in the brand of drug could have led to the toxic reaction.

“Most experienced toxicologists have come across a few cases of people using fentanyl exactly as prescribed and being found dead,” he added.

Mrs Allen’s family questioned the level of support patients taking strong pain killers receive, highlighting how her last appointment with chronic pain specialist, Doctor Sally Roscoe, had been six months before her death.

Dr Roscoe said appointments were provided “over and above what was available” but said the department was too stretched to see patients on a monthly or bi-monthly basis.

She said: “I know this doesn’t help Mrs Allen but it may help in the future. We have looked at this very hard within our department and have put changes in place to try and prevent this situation arising again.”

Crispin Oliver, deputy coroner for County Durham, recorded a verdict of death by misadventure.

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