Thursday, August 20, 2009
Billy Mays Dies But Was it Cocaine?
It was sad to hear that the TV pitchman Billy Mays (age 50) died in his sleep from a heart attack. I must admit I have seen him pitching oxi-clean when I was channel surfing late at night. (Yes, I do rarely watch TV when I am not blogging.) I've always been fascinated by TV pitchmen (Sham-Wow) and how they can convince you that their product is a "must have".
So now I really must speak out against the irresponsible press release of the Hillsborough County Medical Examiner that states cocaine was a contributory cause of death for Billy Mays. His autopsy showed coronary artery disease and hypertension.
He did not have active cocaine in his system at the time of death. Cocaine metabolites were found on a toxicology screen and these metabolites can remain for 30 days in some tissue and up to three months in hair.
We know that cocaine has inflammatory effects and vasoconstrictive effects...both of which are bad for the heart and other vessels. Cocaine can also cause sudden death from arrhythmia. But since he did not have cocaine in his system at the time of death, there is no way a Coroner could know if he was a one time user or a habitual user. There is also no way they could blame atherosclerotic heart disease on cocaine, unless they knew he was using it habitually.
Billy Mays wife said, "We were totally unaware of any nonprescription drug usage and are actively considering an independent evaluation of the autopsy results".
The family called the cocaine abuse charge a "speculative conclusion" and said it distracts from Mays' ultimate cause of death — untreated hypertension.
I have no idea if he was a habitual cocaine user, but the medical examiner should be more discrete about leaving a lasting negative legacy and ruining the reputation of a man who cannot defend himself.
Posted by Toni Brayer, MD at 9:45 PM