Michael Jackson's death has lifted a veil on the sinister underbelly of fame, with associates of the pop icon hitting out at celebrity-dazzled doctors who funnel powerful narcotics to the stars.
Jackson, who died Thursday aged 50 after collapsing at his home in Beverly Hills, had a long history of prescription drug use, stretching back to 1993 when allegations of child abuse were leveled against him.
AdvertisementReports that Jackson had been injected with a powerful painkiller by a personal physician shortly before his death triggered speculation that the star had a ready supply of prescription medications.
According to Jackson's close friend and confidante, new age guru and trained cardiologist Deepak Chopra, the entertainment world is rife with doctors who trade their access to drugs for celebrity.
"There's a plethora of doctors in Hollywood that are drug peddlers, they are drug pushers," Chopra told CNN. "They just happen to have a medical license."
Chopra spoke of a "huge problem" Hollywood had with "celebrity doctors who not only initiate people into the drug experience but then they perpetuate it so that people become dependent on them.
"I think this is something that really should be investigated because it's a disease," Chopra added.
"The number-one cause of drug addiction in the world, and particularly in the United States, is not street drugs but medical prescriptions given legally by physicians."
The fatal alliance of drugs and celebrity has been one of Hollywood's longest-running narratives, whether the decades-long addiction battle fought by Judy Garland before her death in 1969 aged 47 or recent cases, such as the accidental overdose of Australian actor Heath Ledger in New York in 2008.
The circumstances surrounding Jackson's demise have meanwhile evoked eerie comparisons with the 2007 death of former Playboy model Anna Nicole Smith.
Smith died of an accidental drug overdose in a hotel in Florida. An autopsy subsequently found a lethal cocktail of several prescription drugs in her body.
Her boyfriend and two doctors are currently facing trial in California, accused of conspiring to provide the platinum blonde sex symbol with prescription drugs.
"These individuals repeatedly and excessively furnished thousands of prescription pills to Anna Nicole Smith, often for no legitimate medical purpose," California Attorney General Edmund Brown said in March.
The US Drug Enforcement Administration on Friday renewed concerns about rising deaths from misuse of prescription pills.
"Diversion and abuse of prescription drugs are a threat to our public health and safety similar to the threat posed by illicit drugs such as heroin and cocaine," said Gil Kerlikowske, director of national drug control policy.
Chopra meanwhile revealed he first had an inkling Jackson was receiving drugs from multiple sources following his 2005 acquittal on child-sex charges when the star had stayed at his home.
"At one point, he started asking me for a prescription. He knew I was a physician. I had a license. He asked me for a prescription for a narcotic. And I said what the heck do you want a narcotic prescription for?" Chopra said.
"It suddenly dawned on me that he was already taking these and that he had probably a number of doctors who were giving him these prescriptions."
Chopra's concerns appeared to be supported by the former nanny of Jackson's three children, Grace Rwaramba, who was quoted in British newspapers on Sunday as saying she regularly had to pump the star's stomach.
The star was addicted to narcotic painkillers, she said in comments reported by The Sunday Times.
"I had to pump his stomach many times. He always mixed so much of it," said Rwaramba, 42.
"There was one period that it was so bad that I didn't let the children see him... He always ate too little and mixed too much."