July 6th, 2009
06:20 PM ET

Should Diprivan be a controlled substance?

Elizabeth Landau
CNN.com Health Writer/Producer

The general anesthetic Diprivan (propofol) has been making headlines as questions about Michael Jackson’s death abound. A nurse who had worked for the singer told CNN that Jackson requested the drug because he had trouble sleeping, and The Associated Press reported that it had been found in his home. Diprivan is not approved as a sleep aid by the Food and Drug Administration. Read more about propofol.

It turns out that propofol, used routinely for surgeries and procedures such as colonoscopies, has been a point of concern among some anesthesiologists because of the potential for abuse by health care workers. A 2007 study published by the International Anesthesia Research Society found that about 18 percent of the 126 academic anesthesia programs in the United States had at least one reported instance of propofol abuse within the previous 10 years.

Researchers also found that six out of 16 residents (about 38 percent) who abused propofol died from it. While these are small numbers, lead author Dr. Paul Wischmeyer, professor of anesthesiology at the University of Colorado, believes this is indicative of a larger problem.

Keep reading...

Filed under: Medical News • Michael Jackson • Sanjay Gupta
soundoff (39 Responses)
  1. jmiller

    Michael Jackson is one of very few who can afford a 24 hour anesthesiologist. It's like putting a "no trespassing" sign on the moon. Few have the ability to make the journey. Jackson may be the only abuser of diprivan in the world. I don't think it matters too much, because this will most likely never happen again.

    July 7, 2009 at 9:36 am |
  2. William Courtland

    Government: ways and means, Standards and wieghts: Food and Drug Administration: rating: from most harmful: to scale nutritious, as passing, pathological, toxicological, cacinogenic, necrotic mass infusion, hazzardous, dangerous for ingestion via skin: corrosive, explosive... as material listings is sub bracketed for those things we would not with reasonable intention have understood reason to eat it: as into the scales of spices, meats, and other ingredients of produce and auhtorized scales of graded worth.

    July 7, 2009 at 8:44 am |
  3. Terry / Washington State

    OF COURSE it should be. Why would anybody need it, even with a doctor outside of a clinical setting. Whomever hooked him up and gave it to him prior to and possibly what caused death were only pandering to someone that was an addict. I could see a dealer or even a friend trying to pander to a star, DOCTORS we all expect to be able to hold to a higher standard.

    July 7, 2009 at 7:58 am |
  4. Mary H. Johnson

    Is it possible that the rumor about Bristol Palin's baby father being a black man have anything to do with her resignation? Read the story of Kevin, who says he's the father of Bristol Palin's baby. He stated that the baby Bristol was carrying was his baby. He was in Alaska visiting his uncle who worked on the pipeline and he and bristol got busy. Is she perhaps trying to avoid family shame? The story is on the internet

    July 7, 2009 at 6:56 am |
  5. Donna Parker Duke

    Tonight, after hearing about oxygen tanks in reference to Michael Jackson, I finally HAVE to ask the question...

    re: Michael Jackson: Oxygen being administered on a person who is NOT breathing will do nothing! You must have respiratory effort (either spontaneous or mechanical ventilation) in order for the oxygen to ENTER the body. The oxygenated blood is then carried throughout the body (as long as the heart is pumping) which in turn supplies the brain and vital organs for the necessary oxygen to sustain life. Also, why haven't any questions been raised about the order of the CPR that was reported? IF Michael Jackson had a pulse but was NOT breathing... why didn't someone (ie.. the personal physician) perform "rescue breathing" ? You do chest compressions on a person who is pulseless and when that is the case... it is performed while the person is laying on the floor or other hard surface. Otherwise, the chest compressions wouldn't be "deep" enough to create artificial circulation by manually pumping blood through the heart.
    I am a registered sleep technician (RPSGT), not a nurse or Dr. and have listened to HOURS & HOURS of the media coverage since Michael Jackson's collapse.
    Thank You, Donna Parker Duke

    July 7, 2009 at 4:30 am |
  6. Katherine

    With all the information on the drug it doesn't sound good. It's what the doctor's use for an operation purpose. It puts you to sleep alright.
    To use this drug it sounds bad, where was the doctor, or nurse monitoring Micheal? Is that why the doctor spent the night? All of these questions go unanswered. But, then again other drugs if taken could of had bad adverse effects also. I guess later we find out the answer from the Doctor who was there.
    Working out to, at that age could have affects on the heart. I'm not saying he was old, but, not young either. Then all the drugs whatever
    else he was taking. To anyone else, this does not make a good sleep aid. There are other sleeping pills out there. By prescription only of course. It sounds like know one really knew what his capabilities were, for example his physical, Health, just the well-being of this person who was supposed to be cared for. To do fifty concerts he had planned, that seemed to be an enormous amount of stress on him. I just hope someone has the right answers.

    July 7, 2009 at 12:43 am |
  7. Savannah Taplin

    I'm glad that somebody paying attenion to this death. so sad. and the technology we have today this case will be resolve. I'm still in shock!

    July 6, 2009 at 11:59 pm |

    AC By all intents i thought it already was; what seems to me that ought to be controlled are these so called Doctors of Death who allegedly assisted Michael's downward spiral...I Love You Michael and I will until il the day I die. Peace I Leave With You..My Peace I give to you. Love, Patt

    July 6, 2009 at 11:47 pm |
  9. Katrina

    in my opnion i think that people should take a look at the meds they give out and see that this is not just a michael jackson problem. should it be called a controled substance yes and no honestly noone should have that in there home and yes because of the obvious addiction it can cause. i am hoping that this situation will open up peoples eyes and they will look around and see that meth and other drugs are not the only ones killing our children our friends and icons. people need to realize that prescription drugs are just as much of a problem as regular street drugs and they can and will kill you if abused. i hope that the doctors that may be invovled in this if they are guilty will get a max sentance just like a street drug dealer would, because in my opinion they are no better than them

    July 6, 2009 at 11:38 pm |
  10. Maria

    It is astonishing to me, that a person who could pay for the best health care available, could not get a prescription for a regular sleep aid. Doctors don't want to prescribe controlled substances, too much paperwork, too many questions, so even the people that are in real need of this meds are not getting them, that's why there is so many wackos running free in America. Power to tha people! I'm for the deregulation of all drugs.

    July 6, 2009 at 11:33 pm |
  11. Skyler, NY

    Who knew you could get Diprivan delivered to your home under the "care" of shady doctors?! Wow, that just makes me wonder what other drug conspiracies don't we know about.

    July 6, 2009 at 11:30 pm |
  12. jenRN

    I am an RN/BSN who works in a prestigious medical center and I can tell you the only place Propofol is used is the ICU or the OR; it has no business whatsoever being outside of these settings. The indication for this drug is for anesthesia NOT for sleep deprivation and the quack-doctor who is responsible for irresponsibly administering this drug (just for the money) should be held absolutely accountable for MJ's death. Furtermore, you have to question the ineffective CPR technique-how long was he on the bed before he was on the floor? And this guy wasn't a board-certified cardiologist? ridiculous.

    July 6, 2009 at 11:21 pm |
  13. Carol P.

    This medication should be stiffly regulated. Had Michael Jackson approached me, I would have contacted one of his family members. Especially, his mother. I may have lost my job, but at least my conscious would have been clear. Hopefully, the person/people who gave it to him prior to his passing will face charges.

    July 6, 2009 at 11:03 pm |
  14. Davina Perraglio

    Mr. Cooper,
    I would like to add that I am proud to say that I pulled myself out of the depths of a sad, horrible life involving alcohol and drugs, but seeing these videos of Micheal Jackson days before his death boggles my mind in that he looked so energetic for someone who was supposed to be so hooked on all these depressants. Besides all that I believe that who ever gave him that drug to sleep made a mistake, but bottom line is this.....IT WAS HIS TIME TO GO HOME AND BE WITH GOD He was such a loving and caring person and he does not deserve all the bad things that are being said about him. So to all of you out there who are behaving opposite of the way that God would want you to behave "SHAME ON YOU"!!!!!

    July 6, 2009 at 10:16 pm |
  15. D. Johnson

    Absolutely!! Who are the doctors who gave him this?

    July 6, 2009 at 10:14 pm |
  16. Sabrina In Las Vegas

    I am shocked this is not controlled.

    It should be.

    Along with other substances.

    July 6, 2009 at 9:51 pm |
  17. Davina Perraglio

    Mr. Cooper,
    You know being an alcoholic/ drug addict and fighting with this every single day and do not wish this on my worst enemy, everyone says why didn't someone step in and what?! perform a miracle? When a person, or I should say a body and a mind becomes hooked on a substance it is the beginning of that persons hell. For people to blame others for Micheals addictions and not getting him help is ludacris.

    July 6, 2009 at 9:51 pm |
  18. DawnMD

    The DEA (Drug Enforcement Agency) will be able to track the Diprivan associated with Michael Jackson's Doctors because every bottle has a DEA number associated with it as well as all prescripton medications.

    July 6, 2009 at 9:29 pm |
  19. Karla

    Certainly this drug should be accountable for at all times. On another hand, this might not have killed Michael if we go by the report that said he was in the living room with his son when he collapsed. Sounds like he was not asleep. But then we don't know what reports are really true yet.

    July 6, 2009 at 8:55 pm |
  20. Elle Bennett

    Dentists use it and people die getting their wisdom teeth removed. I requested NOT to have it used on me but chose a local even though mine wisdom teeth were imbedded. My mom was addicted to valium and died at 56 so I have been aware. I always found it insulting that people would tell me my chances of being an addict were high because of her addiction. I unnecessarily stayed away from helpful drugs as well because I didn´t want to be labeled an addict even for diet coke. i would use a moist heating pad on my head if i had a headache rather than take an aspirin as an example.

    July 6, 2009 at 8:39 pm |
  21. Katz

    Anderson, can you enlighten viewers about legal ramifications for the person who gave Michael the diprovan. If it was the cause of death, would that be criminally negligent manslaughter?

    July 6, 2009 at 8:16 pm |
  22. Evan- New Mexico

    I think its so hard to get and administer that the risk for abuse is minimal, not to mention the fact that its not physically addictive. 18% of academic anesthesia programs reporting atleast 1 case of abuse in the last 10 years is actually a very small number. Im not trying to diminish its lethal potential but put in perspective it seems like a reletivly small problem relegated to health care workers, anesthesiologists, and drug crazed SUPER stars.

    July 6, 2009 at 8:07 pm |
  23. Liz W>

    This drug must be put in the same Class as morphine or even higher. I work as a hospice nurse and I will be writing to our senators and congressmen here in New Jersey to take action immediately on this.
    Liz NJ

    July 6, 2009 at 8:02 pm |
  24. Ken (CA)

    I thought it was a controlled substance...Maybe the doctors who prescribe the drugs should be more controlled...

    July 6, 2009 at 7:56 pm |
  25. Barb

    Understand that it IS a controlled substance.....there are 5 classifications within the grouping ; rating 1 to 5, which diprivan is a class 5. After the DEA's investigation it may and probably will be moved up to class 2.

    July 6, 2009 at 7:50 pm |
  26. Kathy, Andover

    would've liked to "Keep Reading"

    should Propofol be a controlled substance? Good question. But it's not like it's easy to get. As for the residents abusing it, they would find a substitute, I'm sure. I read an interesting Case Report titled "Death from Propofol: Accident, Suicide or Murder?", where they quoted Paracelsus: "Poison is in everything, and no thing is without poison" The physician went on to say, "The dosage makes it either a poison or a remedy."

    July 6, 2009 at 7:36 pm |
  27. Heather,Ca

    I can't believe you can even get this stuff outside of a surgical procedure setting. Its just mind blowing how anyone could take this considering how powerful it is. I recognized immediately because of the milky appearance. I can't believe there is not a special control already put in place for all drugs used for anesthetic purposes. There is a reason why these drugs are only used in a surgical setting and by a trained licensed professional. There fact that there was such a thing as a mini clinic on tour when these drugs were administered , I would imagine by the FDA and the DEA is illegal. Of course it should be controlled! I though it already was.

    July 6, 2009 at 7:36 pm |
  28. Jenny Z

    Diprivan should absolutely and completely be a controlled substance. There are rapid and sometimes severe changes in the respiratory system when it is injected. I work in a field where it is used on a regular basis and I can tell you that this drug affects everyone differently,but ultimately the same result. You are asleep and breathing is shallow and inconsistent unless you are on a ventilator. The people that are administering this drug are trained Anesthesiologists who know how to keep you alive and are fully knowledgeable of how Diprivan works.

    July 6, 2009 at 7:33 pm |
  29. Mike T

    This IS a controlled substance and is under the control of FDA. Just like the other meds that are abused are also controlled. The scariest thing about it is that some patients die from using this medication by a doctor in an operating room. its a real and present danger even under the proper and legal conditions in which it is administered. If this is the cause of death MJ was a very foolish man indeed. I can't help but to wonder if he knew... with all the millions and throngs that love him I still wouldn't want to be Michael Jackson. Its a very sad commentary on someone who was clearly not a happy person.

    July 6, 2009 at 7:27 pm |
  30. Carol Keegan

    Propofol-Since it needs to be a continous Iv infusion to maintain sleep status, I would doubt that it is being abused to any significant degree. Health Care professionals working in Surgery Suites are well aware of the extreme danger of this product.

    July 6, 2009 at 7:21 pm |
  31. DawnMD

    My mothter was a LP Nurse and she took so much pride in her profession. It is hard for me to understand how others in the medical field could do these horrific acts.
    I don't blame Michael Jackson if he begged for these drugs; I blame the enabling doctors.
    Doctors are held to a higher standard; as they should be; how awful.
    I pray something is done to stop this practice.

    July 6, 2009 at 7:17 pm |
  32. Jane Williams

    Duh...what a question, Anderson. Of course it should be controlled substance. Why isn't it already??? In the hands of lay people, like MJ, it's deadly. I shudder to think how horrendous it would be out on the streets.

    July 6, 2009 at 7:05 pm |
  33. Helena Pereira

    My mom was under with Diprivan for 6 weeks (ICU) and yes it should be controlled. She was watched 24/7 and monitored all the time. The nurses monitor all vitals and they made sure they did not miss anything (practically with a check list) . She was on a ventilator and tubes coming out of everywhere. Look at what happened to MJ is that not enough. . What are people thinking of. Because people are so selfish we have lost a great icon..MJ if you had surrounded yourself by people who truly and honestly loved you and cared for you – tomorrow we would not be buring you but watching you prepare yourself for your This is it Tour...Now you can Fly Peterpan..spread your wings and sing like an Angel above us.

    July 6, 2009 at 7:05 pm |
  34. Ed Hubble Folom Ca.


    July 6, 2009 at 6:52 pm |
  35. DawnMD

    I do think it should be classified as a controlled substance.
    Whatever it takes to keep it out of the hands of abusers.
    This is a frightening reality that people are dangerously using & abusing this drug.
    It has been fascinating to learn the difference between this drug & sleep aids. I did not realize Diprivan puts your brain into a coma like state.
    I always wondered why you could not feel anything when in surgery.
    It is horrible to think that enabling doctors would use this drug on Michael Jackson. He may have had a drug problem but the licensed professionals who take the hypocratic (not sure of spelling) oath to protect patients would do this.

    July 6, 2009 at 6:52 pm |
  36. lene

    I think it was given to him by some one who work for him

    July 6, 2009 at 6:47 pm |
  37. sharon, sydney, ns

    I am kind of surprised it's not already considered a controlled substance. It's a specific drug used for very specific reasons. Doctors should be held accountable for the whos, the wheres, the whys and the whens it is used. Just like they are supposed to do with narcotics.

    July 6, 2009 at 6:36 pm |
  38. Annie Kate

    Yes, it should be a controlled substance and monitored very carefully. No one should be able to get it (even a celebrity!) without a doctor to administer it and clear need for the drug. There are plenty of sleep aids on the market that one can use to get to sleep if you need one. Probably the best approach though is to quit taking all the other prescription drugs you are abusing and then sleep ought to occur more or less naturally. Otherwise you might end up asleep forever.

    July 6, 2009 at 6:25 pm |
  39. Cindy

    I thought all anesthesias and meds like that already were controlled and regulated. They should be since they are EXTREMELY dangerous if you don't know how to use or administer them properly.

    If this drug was what killed Michael then the doc needs to go to prison for giving it to him and killing him.


    July 6, 2009 at 6:24 pm |