FILE - In this Dec. 17, 2004, file photo, pop star Michael Jackson gestures after greeting several hundred children who were invited guests at his Neverland Ranch home in Santa Ynez, Calif. The co-executor of Jackson’s estate says he’s confident the late superstar’s supporters will be able to protect his legacy and brand in the wake of HBO’s “Leaving Neverland,” a documentary detailing allegations of sexual abuse. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill, File)

‘Michael Jackson drug’ still prompts curiosity from patients

Many U.S. patients still remember propofol as the drug that killed Michael Jackson

It remains the most widely used anesthetic in U.S. hospitals, but many patients still remember propofol as the drug that killed Michael Jackson.

Most are no longer afraid of it, doctors say, though many still ask if they will get “the Michael Jackson drug” before an operation. And most of them will.

Jackson died 10 years ago at his Los Angeles home after receiving a lethal dose of the drug intended for use only during surgery and other medical procedures — not for insomnia.

ALSO READ: Standing ovation for Michael Jackson accusers at Sundance

As Jackson rehearsed for his comeback tour, he struggled to sleep. Prosecutors said Jackson’s personal doctor Conrad Murray gave the singer propofol, as he had many times before, then left him unattended. Murray, who maintains his innocence, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in 2011.

A look at the history and safety of propofol:

Milk of amnesia

Jackson called propofol his “milk.” It’s a white, oily solution injected into a vein. It acts fast, in about 40 seconds, and wears off quickly too. Patients wake up with no hangover or nausea. They don’t remember much, earning the drug its nickname “milk of amnesia.”

Propofol was a noteworthy advance when it was launched in the late 1980s, but it almost didn’t make it out of the lab. An early version caused allergic reactions.

Discoverer John B. Glen kept at it and found a better formula using soybean oil. Thirteen years after its discovery, propofol rapidly replaced sodium thiopental in most operating rooms. Up to 50 million U.S. patients receive propofol annually.

The World Health Organization deemed it an “essential medicine.” Glen, who retired from the pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca, was honoured with the prestigious Lasker medical research award last year.

How safe is it?

Because propofol lowers blood pressure and suppresses breathing, patients need to be monitored.

“It’s quite safe in an anesthesiologist’s hands,” said Dr. Beverly Philip of the American Society of Anesthesiologists.

These days, patients aren’t as afraid of going under, she said. “Now it’s more of a matter of curiosity rather than being afraid for their own safety.”

Dr. Steven Shafer of Stanford University, a propofol expert who testified at Murray’s trial, endorses the appropriate use of propofol.

“Michael Jackson was killed by a reckless and incompetent physician,” he said.

Police rarely encounter the drug. It’s not a controlled substance under federal law.

There’s little abuse in the general public. Almost all cases involve health care workers. They steal it at work to get a pleasant but dangerous high. At least 18 deaths were reported among medical professionals from 1992 to 2009.

What’s new?

University of Utah psychiatrist Dr. Brian Mickey is studying propofol for depression in people who don’t get relief from medications or psychotherapy. Other treatments may include brain stimulation such as electroconvulsive therapy, but that can have side effects such as confusion and memory loss.

Mickey and his colleagues published a preliminary study last year that tested a series of high doses of propofol in 10 patients with moderate to severe depression. Half improved and maintained better moods for three months.

Now the researchers are planning a larger study that will test propofol against a sedative called midazolam.

Mickey doesn’t know how propofol may help depression, but said it may be triggering the brain to reorganize itself. It may be “coaxing the brain into getting unstuck from this bad, depressed state that it’s in,” he said.

The study was done in a hospital with an anesthesiologist giving propofol through an IV.

“Don’t do this at home,” Mickey said.

Carla K. Johnson, The Associated Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Theft from vehicle in 100 Mile House

The weekly RCMP report for the South Cariboo

IH requests funding support from CCRHD for Williams Lake and 100 Mile House

$1.355,420 request would support projects at CMH, OMH and Fischer Place

LETTER: Workers deserve more praise

A letter to the editor of the 100 Mile Free Press

$10,000 for Gold Rush Trails marketing video and Billie Bouchie Day celebrations

‘We were very impressed by the calibre of both projects’

Community Spirit: Going above and beyond academic expectations

Some students love going to school, some go, well, because they have… Continue reading

Kids across Canada more at risk of hospitalization from flu this season: doctor

Dr. Theresa Tam said influenza B does not usually peak until February or later

Closed mills, housing surge support a positive forecast for lumber industries

B.C. lumber producers have closed mills accounting for 18% of province’s capacity, RBC report says

Good Samaritan pays part of rent for B.C. woman facing eviction in can-collecting dispute

Zora Hlevnjak, 76, supplements her pension by collecting cans and receiving public donations

Kelowna’s ‘Baby Mary’ finds biological parents after more than 30 years

Geneologist and DNA test helped her connect with her biological parents

Kelowna hotel to award couples for baby-making with Nooner deal

The deal includes a free stay every Valentine’s Day for the next 18 years

‘Scariest boat ride of my life’: Passengers trapped by ice on rocky B.C. ferry sailing

The Nimpkish docked in Bella Coola on Jan.12 coated in a thick layer of ice

B.C. pair ordered to pay $55,000 for oil tank discovered four years after selling home

Judge says defendants breached contract, despite being unaware of tank until basement flooded

Canada to give $25,000 to families of each Canadian who died in Iran plane crash

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also made it clear that Canada still expects Iran to compensate victims

Oil and gas industry applauds top court’s dismissal of B.C.’s Trans Mountain case

The high court’s ruling Thursday removes one of the remaining obstacles for the project

Most Read