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.

Just Posted

Super 30 screening at ACT in Maple Ridge

Movie is based on international best-selling book by Maple Ridge doctor

Camp closing means it’s time to heal and move on, says MLA

Watershed moment for Maple Ridge, says D’Eith

Local rink wins King Cash Spiel

Ryan Rink wins World Curling Tour event in Maple Ridge

Several charges after arrest Friday in Maple Ridge

Court appearance Monday in Port Coquitlam

Maple Ridge’s Tiller’s Folly kick off international music series in Surrey

Come Dancing Around the World takes place at the Surrey Arts Centre

VIDEO: Drone footage documents work to free salmon at Big Bar landslide

Video shows crews working to remove rocks and wood, and transporting salmon by helicopter

Defense says burden of proof not met in double murder case against Victoria father

Closing statements begin in trial for man accused of killing daughters Christmas 2017

B.C. dog breeder banned again after 46 dogs seized

The SPCA seized the animals from Terry Baker, 66, in February 2018

Surrey mom allegedly paid $400,000 for son in U.S. college bribery scam

Xiaoning Sui, 48, was arrested in Spain on Monday night

Three dogs found shot dead in Prince George ditch

The three adult dogs appeared to be well cared for before being found with gunshot wounds, BC SPCA says

Vancouver police could be using drones to fight crime by end of year

The police department has already purchased three drones, as well as three others for training

B.C. party bus company to be monitored after 40 intoxicated teens found onboard

Police received tip teens and young adults were drinking on party buses and limousines in Surrey

Grand opening of Molson Coors Fraser Valley Brewery at Chilliwack cause for celebration

Ribbon-cutting with dignitaries, Molson brass and family marked the official grand opening

B.C. Ferries wants input on concepts for a Horseshoe Bay terminal re-design

Ferry corporation accepting public feedback until Oct. 13

Most Read