Meds and you

04 October 2011

6 facts on propofol

With Michael Jackson’s doctor in court, his controversial use of the drug propofol is back under the spotlight.


With Michael Jackson’s doctor in court, the controversial (the drug itself isn’t controversial. Use of it in this situation was) drug he administered is back under the spotlight.

Propofol (marketed as Diprivan by AstraZeneca) is a powerful sedative and anaesthetic, which is injected into a vein and usually administered by anaesthesia professionals in operating theatres medical settings to induce (start) anaesthesia. It is also used to sedate ventilated patients.

Take a look at this video to see how quickly propofol works when an anaesthetist injects it into a patient.

Propofol facts

  •  It is a dangerous and fast-acting drug, with most patients receiving it losing consciousness within a matter of seconds, and requires very close monitoring.
  •  It is alleged that Michael Jackson's doctor Dr Conrad Murray gave the late pop star the drug as a sleep aid, along with multiple sedatives to treat the singer’s insomnia. The defence is arguing that Jackson injected himself with an extra dose of propofol before he died, which is believed to have been the cause of his death.
  • As it is a short-acting hypnotic drug, it is not a recommended treatment for insomnia..
  • The danger with propofol is that it rapidly induces unconsciousness and apnoea and the patient can stop breathing within seconds of being given the drug, which could cause cardiac arrest. For this reason this drug can never be properly used outside of a hospital setting, without full resuscitation facilities and staff, and needs to be administered by experienced anaesthetic specialist staff.
  •  Propofol also interferes with memory. It is believed that some people may accidentally overdose because they wake up and have forgotten they had already taken their meds, and then take more, but this is not a known effect of propofol.
  • Propofol was approved by the Food and Drug Administration in 1989. However, there have been some reports of suicides by means of propofol in the past. Palliative care workers have also been known to administer the drug to terminal patients who are in pain or who have weeks or days to live.

Sources: (Health24,;;

Read more:

MJ giving self drug: still a homicide?

Inside the case of Jacko's doc?

(Birgit Otterman, Health24 September 2011)


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