Danny Gans’ Death Linked to Painkiller Dilaudid

Danny Gans’ Death Linked to Painkiller Dilaudid

Las Vegas performer and comedian Danny Gans was known as “The Man of Many Voices,” and made his name through song, dance, and impressions ranging from Sammy Davis Jr. to Kermit the Frog. He was a permanent performer throughout Las Vegas, but his life ended abruptly at the age of 52 on May 1, 2009.

A preliminary report from the coroner shows that Gans died from the interaction of hydromorphone, a powerful opiate painkiller marketed under the name Dilaudid, with an existing condition called polycythemia, which involves high blood pressure.

Many fans were unaware that Gans was suffering from chronic pain, a result of an injury he sustained in minor league baseball when another player’s cleat tore his Achilles tendon. “If he was in pain, he would just suck it up and go on with the show,” said Chip Lightman, Gans’ longtime manager and friend. “Dan wasn’t a complainer.”

Coroner Mike Murphy said the death was accidental and that Gans was suffering from chronic pain syndrome. He also said it was not an issue of drug abuse. Lightman said he thought Gans avoided taking pain medications because he was afraid they would affect his singing. He says he is haunted by the question of who gave him the prescription for Dilaudid.

The coroner and medical examiner refused to identify Gans’ physicians or say how long the entertainer was suffering from chronic pain. They also wouldn’t say how much Dilaudid was in his system or whether other medications were present.

A professor of clinical pharmacy and gerontology at the University of Southern California, Bradley Williams, said that hydromorphone is three to five times more potent than morphine. Dr. Mel Pohl, medical director of a Las Vegas drug abuse treatment center and an author of two books on chronic pain recovery, said, “Hydromorphone is not something that’s prescribed for mild pain.”

Pohl also said he though the coroner’s listing of chronic pain syndrome was “a little peculiar.” “I think what they were trying to imply is that he had chronic pain, he was taking this medication to address that, and the treatment ended up backfiring partly because of his medical condition,” Pohl said. “That’s the lesson…Medications often don’t do what we want them to do.”

Pohl says it’s “worrisome in retrospect” that he would take a strong narcotic that could make him breathe more slowly with his existing heart condition. A forensic toxicology consultant said that Gans’ medical condition could have made him less tolerant of the painkiller. “A debilitated patient can be pushed over the edge by drug levels that wouldn’t necessarily be harmful for someone in good health,” Alan Barbour said.

Lightman said he knew Gans suffered back and shoulder pain since he was a minor league baseball player, and that he had two shoulder surgeries since closing his show at the Mirage last year. He also noted that Gans’ show was so high-energy that he needed to be in athletic shape.

“Danny worked out regularly. He ate well. He was very careful,” Lightman said.

Source: TransWorldNews, Danny Gans’ Untimely Death Linked to Prescription Drug Toxicity, June 10, 2009


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