Propofol abuse catches up with four celebrities

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Propofol abuse catches up with four celebrities

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Prosecutors indicted popular celebrities for their illegal use of propofol, an intravenously administered drug used for general anesthesia and sedation.

The Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office said yesterday said they have indicted three celebrities, top actress Park Si-yeon, 32, former Miss Korea-turned TV beauty program host Lee Seung-yeon, 43, and actress Jang Mi-in-ae, 28, without detention for using propofol without medical purposes.

Hyeun Young, a TV variety program host, was summarily fined 5 million won ($4,550).

“Hyeun Young completely stopped taking the drug in 2012 and deeply regrets what she has done,” a spokesman of the prosecution said.

The prosecution said actress Park is suspected of receiving 185 “milk injections” at two different hospitals in Gangnam, southern Seoul, from February 2011 to December last year.

The hospitals recorded in her medical records that she was visiting to have fat removed, but she was instead coming to the clinic to receive propofol.

The 43-year-old former Miss Korea is suspected of receiving 111 injections from two different hospitals during the same time period. The hospitals disguised the injections as Botox treatments.

Jang, who also reported that she was having fat removed, took propofol 95 times from two different hospitals from February 2011 to September 2012, while Hyeun took propofol 42 times from February to December 2011.

There was no mention of the adverse health effects of taking the drug more than 100 times in less than two years, but an overdose of the drug is known to have killed pop star Michael Jackson.

Prior to the indictment, the prosecution summoned the four celebrities and questioned the number of times they took the drug and over how long. The four admitted to taking propofol, but claimed that they used it only for medical purposes.

Allegedly, these indicted celebrities often used propofol in procedures where the drug isn’t necessary, such as Botox or for minor pain. Three of the four - Park, Lee and Jang - asked doctors to give them extra propofol even after their procedures were finished and visited more than one hospital in a day to take the drug, leading the prosecutors to suspect they are addicted to it.

By using their social status, they developed a close relationship with the doctors, receiving the drug at discounted prices, from 100,000 won to 200,000 won ($91-$182) a shot.

Along with these celebrities, the prosecution indicted two plastic surgeons, identified by their surnames Ahn, 45, who runs a plastic surgery clinic in Sinsa-dong, and Mo, 43, who runs a maternity hospital in Cheongdam-dong in southern Seoul, with detention.

The prosecution confirmed that Ahn gave propofol to Lee and Park, and Mo administered the drug to Jang.

The prosecution also found that the doctors have been changing and destroying medical records to hide their behavior. The dosage of the drug for a person aberrantly increased as their body built up tolerance to its effects.

“Doctors obviously know that people could easily be addicted to propofol, but they abused the drug to make a profit,” a spokesman for the police said.


By Shim Sae-rom, Kwon Sang-soo [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]

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