Danny Gans' prescription out of date


LAS VEGAS -- A doctor who treated Danny Gans said Friday that he wrote a prescription five years ago for the potent painkiller blamed in the Las Vegas Strip headliner's death.

But Michael Fishell, a Henderson pain specialist and anesthesiologist, said he reviewed a database of medical records in Nevada or California and found no record that Gans had a current prescription for hydromorphone.

Clark County Coroner Michael Murphy said Tuesday the cause of the 52-year-old singer and impressionist's sudden death was "acute hydromorphone toxicity" and "chronic pain syndrome."

The coroner maintained that Gans' death was "not an issue of drug abuse," but resulted from taking hydromorphone with hypertensive cardiovascular disease, a high blood pressure condition that can damage the heart, and polycythemia -- the opposite of anemia.

Gans was pronounced dead in his bed early May 1 after his wife, Julie, summoned paramedics to their Henderson home with a report that Gans was having trouble breathing.

Fishell, who first spoke with the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Thursday, said Gans told him he didn't want to take drugs because he feared they would dry out his vocal cords.

But Gans also suffered chronic pain stemming from his years as a minor league baseball player and the rigorous physical demands of his frenetic 90-minute one-man show, according to his former manager and close friend, Chip Lightman.

Lightman confirmed that Fishell was one of Gans' physicians.

Fishell said he was prohibited from releasing Gans' medical records. He recalled writing Gans a prescription for hydromorphone just once, in 2004, for an ailment that he declined to specify.

"I wrote it. It was appropriate to write it. He said it didn't help that much," Fishell said.

The physician said that if Gans still had the old prescription, it might have lost up to 25% of its potency over the years.

Fishell said he examined Gans again in March, and Gans declined an offer for a new prescription.

"We looked at his shoulder again. I mentioned medications. He waived it off immediately," Fishell said. "He said he would wait to go see a surgeon when he had a break in the show. He had very conservative therapy, if he used any medications at all."

Lightman said Julie Gans had no idea her husband had hydromorphone, but she didn't look in Danny Gans' medicine cabinet.

"She didn't know he was ever prescribed the drug," Lightman said Friday, adding that Julie Gans was declining interview requests.

"I'm not saying he didn't take it, because he obviously did," Lightman said. "But he said he didn't like to take medications."

Fishell said he was troubled by unanswered questions and continuing reports that Gans died from drug use.

"We keep seeing 'Danny Gans' and 'drugs' in the same breath," Fishell told the Associated Press. "But that's not what we have evidence for."
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