Star Deaths Raise Questions About 'Pharmacy Shopping'

prescription

The number of prescription medications reportedly found at the home of actress Brittany Murphy after her death this weekend highlights the failure of federal prescription drug regulations, according to at least one forensic pathologist.

"How are these people getting four or five drugs each with a psychotropic component?" said Dr. Cyril Wecht, a forensic pathologist who worked on the Anna Nicole Smith case. "Where is the federal government? Where are the state regulations? Who is prescribing these drugs, and why are they being prescribed so indiscriminately?"

Los Angeles Assistant Chief Coroner Ed Winter told ABC News.com that several legal prescription medications -- all made out to Murphy -- were recovered from her apartment and taken in as evidence. Additional messages left for Winter by ABCNews.com to obtain specific drug names found in Murphy's home were not immediately returned.

According to TMZ.com, which cited notes obtained from the Los Angeles Coroner's office, as many as nine prescription medications -- some of which could have proved harmful if not fatal had they been combined incorrectly -- were found in Murphy's home, including anxiety drugs Klonopin and Ativan, and pain relievers Hydrocodone and Vicoprofen.

Dr. Bruce Goldberger, the director of toxicology at the University of Florida College of Medicine, did not treat Murphy but said the drugs reportedly found in the actress's home would indicate that the star may have been treated for "depression and anxiety, and possibly migraine headache and bipolar disorder."

"If these medications were misused or abused, this could result in central nervous system depression, leading to somnolence, coma and death," said Goldberger.

But Murphy's husband, Simon Monjack, is refuting rumors that his late wife may have been incorrectly using drugs or that she had been suffering from health problems.

"She was on herbal remedies that wouldn't speed up her heart," Monjack told People magazine Tuesday, explaining that on the day prior to her death Murphy had been suffering from laryngitis. "There was nothing here that could endanger her; there was prescription medication in the house for her female time and some cough syrup. That was it."

Monjack also told the magazine that his wife had suffered from a heart murmer that was known to cause fatigue, dizziness and irregular heartbeats.

When asked if a drug overdose could have caused her death, Monjack responded: "I can get rid of that one right now."

Murphy is the latest in a string of celebrities who have been found to be in possession of prescription medications when they died. In addition to Smith, who died of an apparent drug overdose in a Florida hotel room in 2007, actor Heath Ledger and music icon Michael Jackson were found with prescription medications in their names at the time of their deaths. Celebrity DJ Adam Goldstein, also known as DJ AM, also had a variety of painkillers and anti-anxiety medications when he was found dead from an apparent accidental drug overdose in August.

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