Whitney Houston drug probe likely to include her doctors
Legal experts said the investigation into the death of Whitney Houston will likely examine who prescribed her medications and whether she was being dispensed unusually large amounts of drugs.
Authorities have collected several bottles of drugs from Houston's suite at the Beverly Hilton Hotel, law enforcement sources told The Times. But the sources said the amounts of drugs did not seem unusually large, leaving it unclear whether the medications had anything to do with the singer's death.
Officials are awaiting results of toxicology tests on Houston's body.
Defense attorney Ellyn Garofalo, who won acquittal for a physician charged with overprescribing drugs to Anna Nicole Smith, said investigators will be looking into several areas as they move forward with their investigation.
Authorities will compare the amounts of prescription medications gathered from Houston’s room at the Beverly Hilton with the amount of medication that was dispensed, when it was filled, as well as who filled it and which doctor or doctors prescribed it. That information could be compared against the prescribing history of one or more doctors who treated Houston.
In addition the toxicology report will show “what she took and when she took it.”
A red flag would be “a single doctor prescribing really enormous amounts of medication,” Garofalo said.
"No matter what medication they may be taking, until we do a toxicology test and see the levels, we are not going to speculate," said Ed Winter, a spokesman for the Los Angeles County coroner's office.
Investigators are expected to speak to Houston's medical team to learn of any underlying medical conditions she might have had. In previous high-profile death investigations, officials have interviewed those who prescribed drugs for the deceased. When Michael Jackson died, authorities spent weeks sorting out his large cache of prescription drugs.
That probe ended with criminal charges being filed against Jackson's physician, Conrad Murray. But Beverly Hills police said Monday that they don't consider the Houston case a homicide and have no plans to launch a criminal investigation.
Houston struggled with drug and alcohol problems for years, and last May her spokeswoman said the singer was going back into rehab.
The singer was in Beverly Hills for music industry titan Clive Davis’ annual pre-Grammys party Saturday night at the Beverly Hilton. During the preceding days, she was seen acting strangely, skipping around a ballroom and doing handstands near the hotel pool. She reportedly greeted people with a warm smile but at times appeared disheveled in mismatched clothes and with her hair dripping wet.
On Thursday, she dropped by the rehearsals for the pre-Grammys party. A Grammy staffer said that as reporters interviewed Davis and singers Brandy and Monica, Houston was dancing just off camera to make them laugh.
-- Andrew Blankstein and Richard Winton
Photo: About 150 people attended a vigil Monday for Whitney Houston in L.A.'s Leimert Park neighborhood. Credit: Ricardo DeAratanha / Los Angeles Times