DEA weighs new limits on drug in MJ case

July 15, 2009 3:26:52 PM PDT
Federal authorities are considering making the potent anesthetic propofol - one of the drugs found in Michael Jackson's home - a controlled substance, which would put new limits on its distribution.The Drug Enforcement Administration was petitioned two years ago to make propofol a so-called "scheduled" drug under the Controlled Substances Act. That designation is used to impose restrictions on distributing and prescribing certain drugs prone to abuse and addiction.

DEA spokesman Rusty Payne confirmed Wednesday that the agency is considering adding propofol to the list of controlled substances. The brand-name version of propofol is called Diprivan. A nurse who provided nutritional therapy for Jackson, Cherilynn Lee, has said he asked her for Diprivan, but she said she did not provide it.

Until Jackson's death, the main concern about propofol was its potential for abuse by medical staff, because it is usually administered intravenously in hospitals to patients who need to be unconscious for surgery or other procedures.

A central question in the Jackson investigation is who provided that drug and other prescription medications found at his rented Beverly Hills mansion. Investigators are talking to doctors who treated Jackson.

As part of the lengthy process of adding a drug to the controlled substances list, the DEA asks for a recommendation from officials at the Department of Health and Human Services. HHS experts can stop a drug from being added to the list if they recommend against doing so. Congress can also add specific drugs to the list through legislation.

The federal list of controlled substances is divided into five categories, ranging from some of the most potent, like heroin, to much milder products, like cough medicine with codeine.