Michael Jackson's death highlights the dangers of prescription drugs

Michael Jackson died of expensive medicine – medicine that was costing him almost £100,000 a month

By Dr Miriam Stoppard

Michael Jackson died of expensive medicine – medicine that was costing him almost £100,000 a month. When a patient is paying a doctor that much to be their personal pharmaceutical dispensary, all the power rests with the patient. It’s at this tipping point that patient demands can overtake medical ethics.

Jackson’s physician, Conrad Murray, was last week jailed for four years after being found guilty of involuntary manslaughter directly causing Jackson’s death. His misdemeanours are mind-bogglingly serious in that he used an anaesthetic, propofol, to induce sleep in an insomniac Jackson when it should only be used in a hospital setting with an anaesthetist on hand. He waited almost half an hour to contact emergency services when he found Jackson and failed to tell paramedics about the propofol.

What really shook me was the number of prescription drugs that had been hoarded.

Murray was providing so many for Jackson that abuse of these drugs would have been difficult to avoid. Jackson is by no means the first celebrity to succumb to prescription drugs provided through the legitimate channel of a private physician.

Seven million people in the US admitted resorting to prescription drugs for non-medical purposes in the past month. But just because a drug is written up by a doctor doesn’t mean it is harmless or non-addictive.

I don’t necessarily blame doctors. GPs get a lot of pressure from patients to prescribe something, anything. From there it’s a small step to people staying on those drugs for a long time. It’s estimated that more than one million people in this country are addicted in the same way. I think this is firstly because people feel that if a doctor prescribes a drug it must be OK.

Secondly, the majority of people simply don’t take prescription drug addiction seriously enough and even buy them from the internet.

In the US, 40 people die every day from it, a habit fed by “pill mills” – clinics that prescribe inappropriately – and “doctor shopping” when a patient picks up a prescription from several doctors for the same complaint.

Let’s make sure that doesn’t happen here.

Source: Daily Mirror

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