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Cocaine Contributed To Billy Mays' Death Autopsy Finds

Posted by Jane Akre
Friday, August 07, 2009 6:39 PM EST
Category: Major Medical
Tags: Prescription Medication, Painkillers, OxyContin, Hydrocodone, Heath Ledger, Anti-Anxiety, Heart Disease, Cocaine

The autopsy and toxicology tests on Billy Mays finds cocaine use led to his death.


IMAGE SOURCE: CBS News Web site/ Billy Mays

First it was reported that TV pitchman Billy Mays, who died in June at the age of 50, had hit his head during a turbulent landing on a flight into Tampa. Then it was reported he suffered a heart attack.

Now an autopsy report says that cocaine was a contributing factor in his death.

“Mays died from a lethal arrhythmia of the heart caused by hypertensive and arteriosclerotic heart disease” according to Dr. Leszek Chrostowski, who conducted the autopsy for Hillsborough County, Florida.

Toxicology tests uncovered the cocaine in his system which contributed to the development of heart disease. It is listed as a “contributory cause of death.” The frequency of his use was not determined.

A news release from the county says that cocaine can raise the arterial blood pressure and cause thickening of the left wall of the ventricle and accelerate the formation of atherosclerosis in the coronary arteries.

There were also amounts of hydrocodone, oxycodone, and tramadol in his system as well as the anti-anxiety drugs aplrazolam and diazeprm. Mays was scheduled for hip replacement surgery the day after he died, reports AP.

Prescription Drugs

A report in the Journal of the American Medical Association in 1998 reports that prescription drugs kill 106,000 Americans a year, three times the number killed by automobiles and the fourth killer after heart disease, cancer and stroke. 

The CDC reports that from 1999 to 2004, unintentional poisoning death from prescription drugs sleeping pills, antidepressants and tranquilizers grew 84 percent  to 20,950 deaths, overtaking cocaine and heroin combined as the leading cause of lethal overdose.

The FDA compiled reports from 1998 to 2005 and finds that dangerous side effects and deaths from prescription and over-the-counter medications almost tripled to nearly 90,000 incidents.  

Potent narcotic painkiller OxyContin was among the 15 drugs most often linked to death. Others include insulin, Vioxx, Remicade, and Paxil.  Vioxx was removed from the market in 2004. #

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