The Los Angeles county coroner's office recently issued a subpoena for Whitney Houston's medical and pharmacy records. This request is not surprising. After all, Houston is the latest celebrity suspected of dying from complications related to prescription drugs. With Houston's death, prescription medication bottles were found in the singer's hotel room where she was found unconscious in a bathtub filled with water. The subpoena for medical and pharmacy records was likely initiated to determine, in part, whether any doctors and/or pharmacists were improperly supplying Houston with prescription drugs.
Initial reports indicate the list of medications found in Houston's hotel included alprazolam (Xanax), ibuprofen (Midol), and amoxicillin. Following the death of Anna Nicole Smith, her doctor was found liable for improperly supplying the actress with prescription drugs. More recently, Michael Jackson former physician, Dr. Conrad Murray, was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for improperly administering the drug propofol, used almost exclusively during surgery, to help the singer sleep at home.
In the Anna Nicole Smith case, the actress' psychiatrist was found guilty of supplying her patient with drugs using false names. Jackson's doctor was found guilty of using a drug that no doctor could, in the end, justify as acceptable in the manner given. In the case of Houston, the facts and circumstances surrounding the medication she was given appear, thus far, less suspicious. None of the medications found, alone, seem to suggest anything improper. Consequently, the potential for a civil and/or criminal trial involving possible medical malpractice appears unlikely against any of Houston's doctors barring any unexpected revelations.
The real danger with many otherwise seemingly harmless prescription drugs like those taken by Houston is when they are combined with alcohol and/or other drugs that are contraindicated. There have been reports that Houston was seen drinking shortly before she was found unconscious in a bathtub, submerged in water. If she did not die directly from drugs and/or alcohol, one possibility is that she simply passed out in the tub and drowned to death. In that instance, drugs and/or alcohol would be a potential contributing cause of her death. Whether prescription drugs played any role in Houston's death remains to be seen. However, if they did, there will undoubtedly be a full investigation into whether any doctor or other health provider was improperly supplying Houston with prescription drugs. This is particularly true in light of the recent high profile deaths involving prescription drugs which, in many instances, should never have been supplied to the patient.
MedPage Today, Request For Houston Records Par For Course, February 16, 2012.
CNN, In Depth: Fighting The Scourge Of Addiction, February 21, 2012.