Health Law

Probe of Michael Jackson's Death Zeros In On Prescription Drug Issues

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An ongoing investigation into the death of Michael Jackson may be focusing on his use of drugs prescribed under pseudonyms.

Although it is illegal under state and federal law for a patient to be given drugs under a fictitious name, sources say the famous pop singer was prescribed medications under the name “Omar Arnold” shortly before his death in Los Angeles late last month, reports the Los Angeles Times.

In addition to flouting the law, prescribing drugs in this manner “makes it difficult to track behavior of patients who might be doctor-shopping or who may be receiving large doses of controlled substances that might cause some concern,” says Dr. H. Westley Clark. He serves as the director of the federal Center for Substance Abuse Treatment and is also licensed as a lawyer, the newspaper reports.

Dr. David Sack, who operates a California rehab center that often treats celebrities, tells the Times that seeking a prescription under a pseudonym is a red flag for substance abuse. If patient privacy is a legitimate concern, a referral to a discreet pharmacy should resolve it, he says.

At least five doctors wrote prescriptions for Jackson, according to the Times, and it is not known which, if any, of these five physicians may have done so under a pseudonym for the entertainer.

Meanwhile, the Drug Enforcement Administration said this week that it may seek to limit access to propofol (aka Diprivan), a powerful anesthetic found in Jackson’s rented home after his death, reports the New York Daily News.

The fast-acting anesthetic is given intravenously to hospital patients undergoing surgery and is not considered appropriate for in-home use, according to an Associated Press article that details Jackson’s claimed use of propofol.

If Jackson did indeed use propofol, that will be the “smoking gun” in the death investigation, predicts Dr. Lawrence Kobilinsky in a subsequent Associated Press article. He is in charge of the forensic science department at John Jay College in New York.

“There is no reason it should have been available to him,” Kobilinsky says of the drug. “If it is a contributing factor to his death, then I think there would be criminal charges.”

Additional coverage: “Michael Jackson Physician Says He Did Nothing Wrong; Other Docs Interviewed”

Los Angeles Times: “Murder charges in Michael Jackson case are unlikely, source says”

TMZ: “Jackson Autopsy Report Delayed”

Updated on July 20 to include link to subsequent Los Angeles Times article.

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