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I am not exactly a Billy Mays fan - because I don't watch television, I didn't even know who he was until his death was reported. However, I have been pondering the news of his death as it relates to the pharmaceutical industry.
Did cocaine really kill Billy Mays? Or was it big pharma?

Mays, age 50, was scheduled for hip surgery the day after his death. He suffered from heart disease and was taking several perscription drugs: hydrocodone, oxycodone and tramadol, as well alprazolam and diazepam. All of these drugs carry potentially lethal side effects or risk of overdose. Two of them, alprazolam and oxycodone, are responsible for more hospital emergency room admissions than any other drug.

It is a well known fact in the medical community that some of these drugs, specifically opioids, can cause a "false positive" during a drug screening.

Amitava Dasgupta, in "A Health Educator's Guide to Drugs of Abuse Testing", writes the following (see p. 172).

from Wikipedia:

When sold commercially in the United States, hydrocodone is always combined with another medication. Certain combinations can cause false drug testing failures resulting in positive results of Morphine HCI, and depending on the combination, (those combined with APAP or Chemdal HD) Cocaine hydrocloride (because of the stimulating effects and similar salts), so it is very important to inform drug control officers of any and all prescriptions.

From Huffpo:

Mays' family questioned the finding of cocaine and criticized the medical examiner's officer for issuing the report.

"We were totally unaware of any non-prescription drug usage and are actively considering an independent evaluation of the autopsy results," Mays' family said in a statement.

The statement said the family was "extremely disappointed" by the release of the information. They said the report "contains speculative conclusions that are frankly unnecessary and tend to obscure the conclusion that Billy suffered from chronic, untreated hypertension, which only demonstrates how important it is to regularly monitor one's health."

Longtime friend and colleague AJ Khubani, founder and CEO of the "As Seen on TV" product company Telebrands, said Mays never showed any signs of drug use and was always prepared for his many commericial shoots.

"I'm just shocked," Khubani said. "He was the model of a responsible citizen."

Interesting stuff. While cocaine can certainly be a deadly drug, there is a possibility that it was not in fact the cause of Mays' death.

This diary may indeed be sheer speculation on a matter of which I have limited knowledge. However, what seems certain to me is that a national dialogue needs to begin on the all-too-common dangers of prescription mediciation, akin to the successful dialogue on the dangers of cigarette smoking. Many of these prescription drugs are easy to abuse, and more readily available to minors, through parents, than are illegal substances. Oxycodone is an opiate, kissing cousin to morphine and heroin. And Alprazolam, an anti-anxiety drug, results in more emergency room admissions than oxycodone.

It also needs to be said here that many hospital room admissions in general that are tagged for illegal substance abuse are actually the result of combining illegal substances with prescription drugs.

And will you look at this, a report from the very Florida Medical Examiner's Commission.

Originally posted to Cartoon Messiah on Sat Aug 08, 2009 at 05:44 AM PDT.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (8+ / 0-)

    "Superstition, idolatry, and hypocrisy have ample wages, but truth goes begging." - Luther

    by Cartoon Messiah on Sat Aug 08, 2009 at 05:44:44 AM PDT

  •  Maybe (7+ / 0-)

    he bought one drug and got one free - only having to pay for shipping and handling?

  •  Of course Mays was coked-up. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Cartoon Messiah, emilysdad

    Didn't you see any of his commercials?

    "Change has come to Washington, and I hope Karl Rove is ready for it. After two years of stonewalling, it's time for him to talk." John Conyers 1/26/09

    by Setrak on Sat Aug 08, 2009 at 05:53:51 AM PDT

  •  Was he running for Congress? (3+ / 0-)

    Why is this here?

    it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses

    by Addison on Sat Aug 08, 2009 at 05:58:00 AM PDT

    •  "This diary may indeed be sheer speculation on a (5+ / 0-)

      matter of which I have limited knowledge. However, what seems certain to me is that a national dialogue needs to begin on the all-too-common dangers of prescription mediciation, akin to the successful dialogue on the dangers of cigarette smoking. Many of these prescription drugs are easy to abuse, and more readily available to minors, through parents, than are illegal substances. Oxycodone is an opiate, kissing cousin to morphine and heroin. And Alprazolam, an anti-anxiety drug, results in more emergency room admissions than oxycodone."

      That's why.

      And no, I don't think that this diary is of particular importance either, but perhaps rather of interest to some. I wasn't aware that there was a strict list of topics on which to write.

      "Superstition, idolatry, and hypocrisy have ample wages, but truth goes begging." - Luther

      by Cartoon Messiah on Sat Aug 08, 2009 at 06:04:58 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  we'll ask translator (0+ / 0-)

        when next he posts on drugs on abuse.

        This is a perfectly legitimate question couched in a sad situation.  Billy was a hustler but seemed to be an authentic guy.

        If big pharma/med/$ can kill him and get away with it they can damn sure kill the rest of us and get away with it.

        BTW:  If they are not now they soon will be "testing" our thoughts.

         

        •  If a side issue may be pointed out (4+ / 0-)

          it is that of pain control which has been sadly lacking in this country. Many physicians currently refuse to prescribe controlled substances unless there is some sort of test which shows massive nerve damage or deterioration; the problem is that most pain is not conducive to being displayed by any sort of medical test and is largely subjective.

          In the meantime, overzealous prosecution of professionals can lead to an atmosphere of fear as there is disagreement even among professionals regarding appropriate treatment modalities. For this reason, most pain patients are now referred to a pain treatment center as a part of defensive medicine while most illegal Rx diversion comes from burglary, employee theft, familial sharing of Rxs and fraud and forgery

        •  Oh good grief. (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          NogodsnomastersMary

          If big pharma/med/$ can kill him and get away with it

          That's a bit over the top.

          Drugs are dangerous.  Taking multiple drugs at once is even more dangerous.  Every label of every prescribed medication has a humongous block of text telling you that you have to be darn careful about how you use them, in what combinations you use them, and how many you use.

          The vast majority of problems that pop up with drugs is people taking them in ways or amounts other than those prescribed.  Which is individual stupidity, not 'big pharma' trying to kill people and 'get away with it'.

          Would you talk about 'big power tool' trying to kill people when someone carelessly chops into their leg with a chainsaw or puts a nail in their head with a nail gun?

          'Big pharma' has a lot to answer for, but they're not trying to kill consumers.  There's no money in it.

          Those who labour in the earth are the chosen people of God. - Thomas Jefferson

          by Ezekial 23 20 on Sat Aug 08, 2009 at 07:40:41 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Because the Health Care industry (7+ / 0-)

      is medicating us to death.

      This guy was a walking example - high blood pressure, anxiety, opiates, and more when exercise and a diet might have saved his life.

      "The way to see by faith is to shut the eye of reason." - Thomas Paine

      by shrike on Sat Aug 08, 2009 at 06:07:55 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  OTOH we can also ask about his family history (0+ / 0-)

        given the genetics of cardiac disease along with questions about smoking as well as his chosen career, which was very high pressured and hectic. To simply look at medical conditions and state, here is the problem, is too simplistic.
        As far as exercise, if he had severe degeneration of his hip joint and concomitant nerve involvement, it would be very difficult for him to enjoy an exercise filled life. Given the presence of pain killers, it would seem his life was punctuated between sleeping and working and not much else

  •  I hardly think that use of cocaine two or three (4+ / 0-)

    days before a heart attack would be a contributing factor.  If the heart attack took place while he was using the cocaine, anyone would agree that contributed to his fatal heart attack even if it didn't.


    The religious fanatics didn't buy the republican party because it was virtuous, they bought it because it was for sale

    by nupstateny on Sat Aug 08, 2009 at 06:07:19 AM PDT

  •  Shocked SHOCKED (0+ / 0-)

    a TV huckster might have dabbled in cocaine use.

  •  If you have seen even one of his infomercials (0+ / 0-)

    You would conclude that yes, cocaine did kill Billy Mays...or maybe it was crystal meth

    Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Give a man religion and he will starve to death praying for a fish.

    by Goodbye Kitty on Sat Aug 08, 2009 at 06:39:03 AM PDT

  •  I would like to point out that Rx drug abuse (3+ / 0-)

    is the most prevalent form of drug abuse in the US and that when a person has taken opoids for a period of time, his body becomes acclimated to the drug and the patient acquires a certain immunity to higher doses of the drug and the effects of the drug.

    In the case of cardiac patients who have a debilitating conditions, especially one which impairs both sitting and walking and other life functions, there has to be an offset as to the potential damage done by the drugs vs the damage done by chronic acute pain which causes increased blood pressure which has its own cardiac consequences.

    In reading the list of drugs, I notice no anti-hypertensives or cardiac drugs which would be expected in someone with a cardiac condition.  

    •  What I find odd is that he 'suffered from' (0+ / 0-)

      'chronic untreated hypertension' despite being scheduled for surgery, and on a number of other drugs.

      Every time I've ever been to a Dr, blood pressure is one of the first things checked.  Surely Mr Mays had to have multiple Dr's visits to get on that list of drugs in the first place, as well as in preparation for surgery, yet no one seemed to notice he had chronic hypertension and bothered to try and treat it?

      So your last sentence seems dead on.

      Those who labour in the earth are the chosen people of God. - Thomas Jefferson

      by Ezekial 23 20 on Sat Aug 08, 2009 at 07:45:06 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  My son was a fan. (0+ / 0-)

    He once forced me to watch the new show.  I think it was called Pitch It or something like that.

    I never did ask my son why he liked the show.  I just sat through it thinking I'd much rather be watching something else (anything else).

    There was something about Billy Mays that my 12 year old son liked.  He thought he was cool.  

    I read about Billy's death while my son was on summer vacation with his dad.  My son mentioned it on our next weekly call.  He was pretty sad.

    It would be nice to hear that Billy did not lose his life as a result of drug abuse.  

    I haven't mentioned these reports to my son.  Maybe new information will be reported and
    I won't have to.

  •  IOKIILD (0+ / 0-)

    It's OK if it's LEGAL drugs (sold to us by BigPharm). Just don't use the illegal ones because BigPharm won't make any money.
    Casting aspersions by mentioning possible blow involvement is to reduce speculation that BigPharm's shit killed Billy.

    Cheney-bu$h tortured people to get false confessions
    To fraudulently justify invasion of Iraq!

    by OleHippieChick on Sat Aug 08, 2009 at 07:19:32 AM PDT

    •  OTOH (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      OleHippieChick

      for a patient with severe hip degeneration, pain is a never absent partner, making it impossible to perform many of life's everyday functions. For example, it makes as simple a task as taking a shower almost impossible or walking for more than few paces.

      The pain associated with nerve degeneration beggars description until actually experienced. Just a few symptoms of a full blown "pain storm" includes vomiting for days uncontrollably until your esophagus is burned out from stomach acid, it means unremitting pain so you cannot rest and you cannot sleep, coupled with a profound depression that this is your permanent lot in life. It means not being able to even take a sip of water without vomiting and having this last for day after day.

       

  •  Billy Mays made some of the most (0+ / 0-)

    obnoxious commercials I have ever seen.  He was always screaming and way over the top with his enthusiasm for the product.  I can believe he did cocaine.  In fact, it would explain a lot.  I hate to seem callous, but I will not miss hearing him...not in the least.  None the less, I am sorry for his family's loss.

    "In this country sometimes we forget that we have the capacity to shape our own destiny." - Birch Bayh, Lafayette, Indiana

    by dijo on Sat Aug 08, 2009 at 07:29:43 AM PDT

  •  Creepy stuff for me... (0+ / 0-)

    this Billy Mays.

    I'd seen the guy on tv for years in the brief second it took me to hit the button on the remote.

    Had no opinion whatsoever on him, good or bad.

    Then, about three weeks before his death I got hooked on his Discovery Channel show. Long story but it totally relates to what I do for a living.

    Then he died, and I found out that we'd actually crossed paths many years ago from a mutual acquaintance. Huh? Never gave ten seconds thought to the guy, and now he's in my thoughts every day.

    And he was less than 60 days from my exact age...

    Creepy stuff for me, this Billy Mays.

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