What is Propofol?

Ever since the tragic news about the death of Michael Jackson I have been getting lots of questions at the pharmacy about the drug ‘propofol.’ Because an overdose of this medication contributed to the death of the pop star, consumers are curious about the safety of this drug and whether or not they need to be concerned about their own medications.

Questions like:

Do any of my medications contain propofol?’

‘Are any of my prescriptions for insonia similar to propofol?’

Should I stop taking my medication for insomnia?’

For this reason I would like to briefly explain exactly what the drug propofol is, and why the general public does not need to be afraid of this otherwise very useful drug.

Propofol was first introduced to the U.S. prescription market back in 1986 under the brand name Diprivin. Propofol is an anesthetic. It is used almost exclusively in a hospital setting to help put patients ‘asleep’ prior to undergoing a medical procedure or operation. It is also used in veterinary medicine for the same purpose.

Propofol is available from several manufacturers in the USA:

  • APP Pharmaceutics (brand name Diprivin)
  • Teva Pharmaceuticals (generically as propfol)
  • Hospira (generically as propofol)

Propofol is administered ONLY by an IV (intra-venous) line directly into the bloodstream. Thus, it may only be administered by qualified medical personnel in an appropriate medical setting. Propofol is not intended for self injection. It is never dispensed to patients for personal use. It is NOT indicated for insomnia. No prescription medications currently available for insomnia have anything like propfol in them. Propfol is only used for anesthesia. It is very fast acting, often sending patients quietly ‘to sleep’ within a minute or two. It earned the nickname ‘Milk of amnesia‘ (a pun on the medication ‘milk of magnesia’ – a laxative) because of it’s white, milky appearance and it’s ability to induce a ‘forgetfulness’ when properly administered.

The death of Michael Jackson was a sad tragedy. The doctor responsible for administering this drug to the singer was doing so outside the boundaries of the intended use of this drug. Propofol is safe and effective when used appropriately in a hospital setting. Patients do not need to fear that their medications for insomnia could cause a similar response.