Intended for healthcare professionals


The safety of propofol

BMJ 2009; 339 doi: (Published 06 October 2009) Cite this as: BMJ 2009;339:b4024
  1. Andrew Hartle, consultant anaesthetist,
  2. Surbhi Malhotra, consultant anaesthetist
  1. 1Department of Anaesthesia, St Mary’s Hospital, Imperial College Healthcare NHS Trust, London W2 1NY
  1. Andrew.Hartle{at}

    Is not disputed in the right hands and further controls are unnecessary

    Michael Jackson’s recent death, its classification as homicide, the ensuing intense media coverage of the drugs and circumstances involved, and his possible addiction have brought propofol to the attention of the general public. Three important questions have been asked. Is propofol addictive? Is it abused by healthcare staff? And should it ever be administered in an environment other than a hospital and by specially trained staff? It has even been suggested that its storage and use should be regulated.1

    Propofol (2,6, di-isopropylphenol) was developed in the 1970s by Professor Iain Glenn at the Alderley Park laboratories of ICI Pharmaceuticals. It was first marketed as Diprivan and was introduced into clinical practice in 1986. It has become the most widely used intravenous induction agent in the United Kingdom (more than 5.5 million units were sold in the year ending June 2009).2 As a drug used for induction and maintenance of anaesthesia, it has a more favourable side effect profile than many older agents, such as sodium thiopental, with a significantly lower …

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