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)

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

Ron Flockhart and sister, LaVerne—who’s holding her grandson, Conner—at the Sicamous and District Recreation Centre for the unveiling of the sign honouring Rob Flockhart on June 6, 2021. (Contributed)
New sign honours the late Rob Flockhart at Sicamous and District Recreation Centre

The sign was unveiled on June 6 to a small group of Flockhart’s family members

Effective Aug. 1, 2021, Donna Kriger will be the superintendent of schools for School District 83 North Okanagan-Shuswap. (Photo contributed)
North Okanagan-Shuswap School District hires new superintendent

Candidate from Saskatchewan to hop to the helm on Aug. 1, 2021

Erin Jackson, the city’s director of corporate services, was appointed acting chief administrative officer for the City of Salmon Arm on June 15, 2021. (Photo contributed)
City of Salmon Arm appoints acting chief administrative officer

Heads of two city department to temporarily fill empty CAO position

The old Dirty Dirt Farm Co-op sign now hangs in the forest behind one of the cabins. (Jim Cooperman photo)
Column: The saga of the Dirty Dirt Farm Co-op

Shuswap Passion by Jim Cooperman

Brook Kosick competes in the barrel racing event at a BC High School Rodeo Association rodeo in Quesnel, which was held from June 11-13, 2021. (Cassidy Dankochik - Black Press)
VIDEO: 14-year-old Salmon Arm rodeo athlete Brook Kosick competes at provincial level

Quesnel rodeo on June 11-13 was first of season for Kosick, who said it meant everything to be back

Bear wanders Kelowna on June 15. (Michelle Wallace/Facebook)
Bear climbs fence, uses crosswalk in Kelowna

The bear was spotted on Baron Road Wednesday evening

This photo of the small wildfire burning above Naramata was taken at 8 p.m. on Thursday, June 17, 2021 (Monique Tamminga Western News)
BC Wildfire on scene of small wildfire above Naramata

Smoke has been showing since earlier in the day

Students in the Grade 10 entrepreneurship program at Summerland Unisus School have completed a cookbook with international recipes. (Contributed)
Summerland students create virtual international cookbook

Entrepreneurship program at Summerland Unisus School uses virtual cookbook as fundraiser

More flames
Lake Country home destroyed in large blaze, 11 dogs rescued

Fire crews are responding to 10839 Hallam Drive

(Facebook/Kelowna Cabs)
Kelowna Cabs reaches tentative agreement with dispatchers union

The tentative agreement could help end the dispute between the taxi company and the dispatchers

FILE – A science class at L.A. Matheson Secondary in Surrey, B.C. on March 12, 2021. (Lauren Collins/Surrey Now Leader)
Teachers’ union wants more COVID transmission data as B.C. prepares for back-to-school

BCTF says that details will be important as province works on plan for September

201 First Street West 1980s. Prior revitalization. (Photo from Revelstoke Museum and Archives)
Man who redesigned downtown Revelstoke honoured with lifetime achievement award

Robert Inwood has worked on historical projects across the province

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry outlines B.C.’s COVID-19 restart plan, May 25, 2021, including larger gatherings and a possible easing of mandatory masks on July 1. (B.C. government photo)
B.C. records 120 new COVID-19 cases, second vaccines accelerating

Lower Pfizer deliveries for early July, Moderna shipments up

The weekly COVID-19 map for June 6 to 12. (BC CDC)
South Okanagan sees only 5 new cases in last week

The Similkameen Valley went a second week without any new cases

Most Read