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

The buoys are back in town

Watershed Wanderings column by Lake Windermere Ambassadors

Invermere council okay with ‘reverse grad march’ idea

Nothing finalized and complications aplenty, but Invermere council agrees to grad march idea

101-year-old man targets 101 block fundraising walk for food bank

A centenarian in Invermere has embarked on a new adventure to raise money for the food bank.

Wings Over the Rockies encourages nature viewing during pandemic

Three local photographers and Wings supporters offer nature viewing tips.

Hospital chief of staff provides guidance on COVID-19 and the Columbia Valley as we open up

Chief of staff says: “COVID-19 … is still here and is not going away any time soon.”

Only four new COVID-19 cases, 228 active across B.C.

Health officials watching as activities ramp up

Feds looking at ways to reunite families amid COVID-19 border restrictions with U.S.

Some families with members of dual-citizenship have become separated due to the pandemic

Condition in kids with possible COVID-19 link being studied in Canada

This month, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued an alert to doctors about MIS-C

‘I knew what he wanted’: Man recalls black bear chasing him up tree in Slocan Valley

Francis Levasseur is no stranger to the outdoors, but a recent run-in with a bear caused quite a scare

COVID cancelled their wedding plans, so they married on a BC mountaintop

Ceremony was live streamed to friends and family around the world

Introducing the West Coast Traveller: A voyage of the mind

Top armchair travel content for Alaska, Yukon, BC, Alberta, Washington, Oregon and California!

Trudeau acknowledges racial unrest in U.S.; ‘We also have work to do in Canada’

‘Anti-black racism, racism, is real; it’s in the United States, but it’s also in Canada,’ Trudeau says

Large cruise ships barred from Canadian waters until end of October: Garneau

Last year 140 cruise ships brought more than two million visitors to Canadian ports

Minneapolis cop who knelt on man’s neck charged with murder

Arrest comes after three days of protests, which escalated in violence as demonstrators torched a police precinct

Most Read