They get the product from forged prescriptions, doctors who fraudulently overprescribe, patients who distribute it illicitly and illegal laboratories.
Some steal it from pharmacies.
It is sold under several generic names, including perc-o-pop.
The lollipop version was invented by Dr. Stanley and Brian I. Hague in 1983 and approved by federal regulators in 1998 to treat cancer pain under the name Actiq.
Their patent was assigned to the University of Utah Research Foundation.
The product was considered a breakthrough because it could be sucked or swabbed in the mouths of patients, including children and old people, who had an aversion to vaccinations or had difficulty swallowing pills.
It grew out of research that Dr. Stanley and colleagues had been conducting in Sacramento, Calif., on an even more potent variety of fentanyl called carfentanil, which was used in darts to subdue game animals and was even considered for use as a weapon against terrorists.
“A veterinarian colleague one day wondered whether carfentanil could be injected into the sugar cubes that some of the study team were using that day in their coffee,” Dr. Stanley recalled in 2014 in The Journal of Pain.
The colleague wondered whether a sugar cube loaded with carfentanil could be used effectively to immobilize monkeys who become frazzled when they were placed in a restraining cage before receiving injections.
“He knew that monkeys love to suck on sugar cubes,” Dr. Stanley wrote.
Within an hour, they tested their theory on a monkey.
“With a couple of sucks on the sugar cube, he was down, and safely,” Dr. Stanley later recalled.
Flying back to Salt Lake City, he said, he wondered, “How could we do this with people? And that’s where the idea of the drug in a lollipop and giving it to a child who needed to have surgery” was born.
“I said, ‘What if we had a lollipop that had one of these drugs in it?’ ” he told NPR in 2010, “ ‘and you give the lollipop to the child and then boom, they would be relaxed, they’d go to sleep?’ Then you could take them from their parents; it would be so stressless, and so nice.”
In 1985, he and his business partner, William Moeller, founded Anesta Corporation to…