IM reported in April that Prince appeared to have spent his final days self-medicating with copious amounts of Fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opiate, similar to, but more potent than morphine, according to medical references.
The 57-year-old singer was known to suffer from severely arthritic hips that often left him wracked in pain. He allegedly had an opioid addiction going back years and used the drug to help him get through performances.
Prince, real name Prince Rogers Nelson, collapsed and died in an elevator at Paisley Park, his sprawling home and studio in Chanhassen, Minn. on Thursday, April 21.
In the latest development, the local Minneapolis Star Tribune newspaper today (Jun 2), cited unnamed sources, claiming that Prince died from a prescription drug overdose. A toxicology report that will detail the drugs in his system is still pending.
Meanwhile, federal prosecutors and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) are reportedly trying to track down the source of Prince’s drug supply and who prescribed the medications.
Percocet and other opioids are considered Schedule II drugs. As such, doctors can only prescribe them under strict guidelines. Two years ago, those rules were tightened even more, according to USA Today.
Doctors are now required to limit prescriptions to a 30-day supply. They can only be refilled after one runs out. Patients are required to obtain a new prescription every three months, which requires a doctor’s visit, according to the federal Controlled Substances Act.
Prince is last known to have met with his physician, Dr. Michael Schulenberg, on April 7. Eight days later, Prince allegedly overdosed on Percocet while on a flight from Georgia to his Minnesota home.
The private jet was forced to make an emergency landing so a drug that counteracts opioids could be administered. Prince was revived and continued to his final destination.
On April 20, the day before he died, he reportedly visited Schulenberg, who prescribed more medication, according to reports.
The same day, Dr. Howard Kornfeld, a well-known California addiction specialist, said through his lawyer that he was contacted by the singer’s reps and told he was in need of urgent help.
Kornfeld dispatched his son Andrew Kornfeld to Prince’s home to set up a medical evaluation.
The next day, Andrew Kornfeld and two of Prince’s associates found the singer unresponsive in a home elevator. Prince had been dead for at least six hours, it was later determined.
Whether Schulenberg and possibly others face criminal prosecution is an open question. Prosecuting doctors who over-prescribe medicine leading to the death of the patient is not unheard of, but is rare, even when it involves celebrities.
The most noteworthy prosecution involved Dr. Conrad Murray, who was convicted of involuntary manslaughter for the overdose death of singer Michael Jackson.
In another notorious case, Howard Stern, Dr. Sandeep Kapoor and Dr. Khristine Eroshevich were prosecuted in 2010 for the overdose death of celebrity model Anna Nicole Smith.
Kapoor was ultimately acquitted. Stern and Eroshevich were found guilty.
But Stern’s conviction was later set aside by a judge for lack of evidence. The same judge also reduced Eroshevich’s felony conviction to a misdemeanor. She spent a year on probation and paid a $100 fine.
In 2008, actor Heath Ledger died of a prescription drug overdose in New York City.
His death was attributed to the abuse of prescribed medications, including opioids oxycodone, hydrocodone and diazepam, also known as Valium. Federal authorities investigated, but no doctors were ever charged in the case.
In 2009, actress Brittany Murphy died suddenly in her home. An autopsy attributed her death to pneumonia,iron-deficiency anemia and multiple drug intoxication, including the opioid hydrocodone.