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Pseudonyms in Michael Jackson, Anna Nicole Smith cases pose challenge for authorities

September 18, 2009 |  9:30 am

Before her death in 2007, model Anna Nicole Smith is believed to have used at least half a dozen different names to obtain powerful prescription medications.

In the case of Michael Jackson, who died June 25 after being administered a powerful sedative and other drugs, the pop star obtained prescriptions by what authorities believe was the use of at least 19 pseudonyms, including "Omar Arnold," " Jack London" and "Josephine Baker."

Trying to decode these fake names has proven a challenge for law enforcement -- even when they are investigating the death of a celebrity, as in the cases of Jackson and Smith.

But officials said they are trying new ways to identify prescription drug buyers who use pseudonyms before its too late.

The California attorney general's office this week touted improvements to the state's prescription medication tracking system will help authorities more easily identify those who use pseudonyms and aliases to illegally obtain controlled drugs as well as the doctors who enable them.

While the issue has been in the news because of the Jackson death investigation, officials said improper use of prescription drugs is a major problem that costs healthcare providers.

"We have so much [drug traffic] moving on the streets and we have so much moving in doctors' suites, and we have to attack both," Atty. Gen. Jerry Brown said.

It is illegal to prescribe drugs in the name of anyone but the intended user, and physicians found using pseudonyms have lost their medical licenses and faced criminal charges. But doctors and investigators were previously unable to track or cross reference pseudonyms or aliases used to obtain controlled medications.

Upgrades to the Controlled Substance Utilization Review and Evaluation System, known as CURES, allow healthcare professionals and law enforcement officials to make instant checks through an Internet-based system of more than 100 million entries for controlled substances -- including anti-anxiety medications, painkillers and sedatives -- prescribed in California.

Sara Simpson, special agent in charge with the state Bureau of Narcotics Enforcement, said at a news conference that the system will be a powerful investigative tool, quickly allowing investigators to connect the dots between doctors, drugs and patients in cases that involve abuse of powerful prescriptions.

Clues to abuses can be checked not only through names on prescriptions but through doctors, she said.

"These patient profiles can be run by the doctor's name," Simpson said. "So If we know a specific doctor is overprescribing or prescribing without pathology, then we can look at his patient record and see if those names actually are true and correct names or are they actually false people."

The Los Angeles Police Department is investigating several doctors who treated Jackson before his death. Last month, the LAPD requested Brown's office to join the review, which includes assistance researching the CURES databases.

In announcing his agency's involvement, Brown told The Times it was too soon to say whether the doctors would face criminal charges or lesser administrative fines or penalties.

-- Andrew Blankstein

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