Did Michael Jackson’s doctor give propofol, a possible cause of death for the King of Pop?

Things are looking increasingly bleak for Dr. Conrad Murray, Michael Jackson’s personal physician.

Did Michael Jacksons doctor give propofol, a possible cause of death for the King of Pop? Reports are circulating that the powerful anesthetic propofol, also known by its trade name Diprivan, was found in the singer’s body. According to ABCNews, “the autopsy of Michael Jackson found the powerful anesthetic propofol, as well as several prescription drugs, in his system, and law enforcement sources say that investigators believe their final report will list the propofol as a ‘contributing factor’ in his death.”

Dr. Murray has consistently denied that he had given drugs like Demerol or Oxycontin, but has remained suspiciously quiet about propofol. And indeed, sources say that Dr. Murray administered the drug 24 hours before the singer’s death.

Also of note are the massive quantities of opioid-based drugs found in Jackson’s home, including Methadone, Fentanyl, Percocet, Dilaudid and Vicodin. A chair of a university medicine department notes that, “The list … would be typical for an anesthesia cart in an operating room or what you might find in a recovery room, ICU, [or] ED.”

I wrote previously that propofol is one dangerous drug, and should only be given in monitored settings. In fact, it’s against FDA guidelines to even have it in the house.

It has a high potential for abuse, as “the drug affects two important brain receptors, one of which is associated with marijuana, and the other is targeted by anti-anxiety drugs such as Valium.” Those who take the drug report a feeling of euphoria upon awakening.

In small studies, almost 40 percent of those who abused propofol died from an overdose. As a professor of anesthesiology grimly notes, “the difference between being high and being dead is a cc or two.”

But whether the drug should be classified as a controlled substance, or not, is still up for debate. Despite the potential for abuse, it’s still less frequently cited when compared to benzodiazepines or opioid medications. Even now, many anesthesiology programs do not strictly monitor its supplies.

Perhaps that will change in the midst of all the media attention swirling around the drug, and its unfortunate association with Michael Jackson.

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  • http://www.pankajkaranmd.blogspot.com Pankaj Karan,MD

    I always suspected from the very first day and told my wife but she did not buy it. When I head the Diprivan was the medicine administered to him, it was clear that this doctor who was getting paid 250K per month and was around him 24×7, must be the one who delivered medicine to his body intravenously. It is very sad that anyone with good connections can get Diprivan delivered at his home.All people starting from the supplier to the Doctor must have their days in court of law.

  • http://draust.wordpress.com Dr Aust (PhD not MD….)

    Apparently after long term use of propofol you can even get fat embolism,, presumably due to the all the fat in the emulsion (see also here).

    My wife, who used to be an anesthesiology/ICU resident, says she is astounded anyone would give propofol outside a hospital Anesthetic Room / Operating Theatre / ICU.

  • joelamp

    In this case, I think people need to be careful not to blame the particular medication (propofol) itself but instead focus on how and why it was administered and (apparently) misused. People are calling propofol a dangerous drug, but is it really any more dangerous than other medicines used for its proper intended purpose (i.e., IV anesthetic induction agents, such as thiopental, methohexital, etomidate, etc.)? They can all certainly cause respiratory depression to the point of apnea and none would be suitable or safe for use as a treatment for insomnia at home.

  • Anonymous

    It looks like Dr. Murray or shall we say Mr. Murray will be toast.

  • SIllIMMD

    mindblowing

  • http://www.yorkyates.com/blog Dr York Yates

    The problem is not the drug, Propofol, itself, but the gross mismanagement of this drug. This is actually a very safe drug when used as it is intended.

    I am a plastic surgeon and I use propofol on nearly a daily basis for cosmetic and reconstructive procedures. This duration of administration is relatively brief and ALWAYS administered by an anesthesiologist.

  • http://www.yorkyates.com Dr York Yates

    Shame on any doctor that would allow $ to get in the way of ethics and common sense as it sounds occurred in the case of Michael Jackson’s death.