Ozzy Fires Doctor, Accuses Him Of Overmedicating (12/7/2003)
Ozzy Osbourne says he was 'Wiped out' on drugs ordered by a
physician investigated for Over prescribing for others.
Week after week, viewers tuning in to the hit reality series "The
Osbourne's" saw the star of the show in a perpetual stupor.
With cameras rolling, Ozzy Osbourne fell on his backside into the
surf off Malibu. He passed out during a party at the Beverly Hills
Hotel. He struggled to swat a fly in his dining room only to slap
himself in the face.
The sight of the aging rocker staggering around his Beverly Hills
mansion, glassy- eyed and mumbling, became a staple of the MTV
series last season.
The cause of Osbourne's disorientation was never explained. It
turns out he was on Valium and Dexedrine, Mysoilne, Adder, all and
a host of other powerful medications. They were all prescribed by
a Beverly Hills physician who, unknown to Osbourne, was under
investigation for over prescribing drugs to other celebrity patients.
Prescription records show that Dr. David A. Kipper had Osbourne on
an array of potent drugs - opiates, tranquilizers, amphetamines,
antidepressants, even an anti- psychotic.
The singer said he swallowed as many as 42 pills a day.
"I was wiped out on pills," said Osbourne, who fired Kipper in
September, more than a year after becoming his patient. "I couldn't
talk. I couldn't walk. I could barely stand up. I was lumbering
about like the Hunchback of Notre Dame. It got to the point where
I was scared to close my eyes at night - afraid I might not wake up."
The state medical board last week moved to revoke Kipper's license,
accusing him of gross negligence in his treatment of other patients.
Osbourne, who has battled substance abuse for decades, sought
Kipper's help last year in kicking a dependence on prescription
narcotics. Kippers ad ministered a 10-day detoxification treatment.
Osbourne was grateful. Then his wife, Sharon, was diagnosed with
cancer, arid the rocker's relationship with Kipper took a new turn.
Kipper began writing prescriptions for a broad range of medications
he said would alleviate Osbourne's anxiety and depression over his
wife's illness. The number and potency of the drugs grew steadily,
records show. At one point, Osbourne was on 13 different medications.
Medical experts who reviewed Osbourne's prescription records at The
Times' request described the drug regimen as extreme.
Although they said they could not make definitive judgments without
examining Osbourne and knowing his medical history, the doctors
said the battery of medications prescribed by Kipper appeared
excessive for any patient.
"The amount and potency of drugs being prescribed to this patient
was outrageous," said Dr. Greg Thompson, an assocate professor of
clinical pharmacy at USC Medical School and director of the Drug
Information Center at County USC Medical Center.
Dr. Drew Pinsky, medical director of the chemical dependency program
at Las Encinas Hospital in Pasadena, said the regimen was especially
risky for someone like Osbourne.
"This was an extreme amount of medication for a doctor to prescribe
to a patient with an addiction history," Pinsky said. "On my chemical
unit, patients like this are not allowed to be exposed to any of
these kinds of addictive drugs."
Kipper, 55, declined to be interviewed. In a statement, he said that
"ethical and medical privacy laws" barred him from discussing patient
"I have only good wishes for Mr. Osbourne and for his family and for
their good health," the statement said.
The doctor's attorney, John D. Harwell, declined to comment beyond
saying: "I can tell you that virtually every allegation you are
reporting is inaccurate, incomplete, or . . . false."
Ozzy and Sharon Osbourne described their dealings with Kipper in a
series of interviews by phone and at their six-bed room, Spanish-style
mansion above Sunset Boulevard. They made available prescription
records and the doctor's invoices, along with credit card receipts
and photocopied checks documenting their payments.
The Osbourne's said Kipper had won their confidence and had become
a regular presence at their home. He accompanied Ozzy on tour and
appeared in several episodes of The Osbourne's.
After Sharon was diagnosed with colon cancer last year, Kipper
prescribed anti-anxiety medications for her and installed a team
of nurses at the couple's home to care for her.
"It's like we let him just take over our lives," Sharon Osbourne said.
"We didn't do anything without telling him."
Kipper charged the couple $650,000 for his services from June 2002
until they fired him three months ago, records show. The medications
he prescribed cost them an additional $58,000.
RAPID REHAB TREATMENT
Kipper, a UCLA-trained internist, is not certified as a specialist in
addiction medicine or psychiatry. He practices from an office on Lasky
Drive in Beverly Hills, next to the posh Peninsula Hotel, and owns
an estate above Beverly Glen.
He often socializes with his clients, who include entertainment executives,
actors, producers and musicians. Kipper carries a Screen Actors Guild
card and has had bit parts in several films, including "As Good As It Gets,"
"Jackass - the Movie" and "Shallow Hal."
In Hollywood circles, he is known for offering speedy and painless
addiction therapy in luxury hotel suites or in patients' homes. Kipper
has used a combination of drugs to wean addicts off narcotics. Key to the
treatment is buprenorphine, a powerful synthetic opiate that spares
patients the agony of withdrawal.
Some celebrities have preferred Kipper's method to conventional drug
rehab at licensed facilities, which can take months and requires years
of follow-up therapy.
But addiction experts say treatments such as Kipper's offer only
temporary relief because they do not address the underlying causes
of addiction or pro vide the sustained psychological support needed
to overcome a drug habit.
State authorities began investigating Kipper in 1998 after The Times
reported that he was detoxifying celebrity addicts in luxury bungalows
at the Peninsula.
The medical board complaint issued last week accuses him of operating
an unlicensed detox program, improperly using buprenorphine for addiction
treatment, and over prescribing habit-forming drugs to eight patients
from 1999 to 2002.
Harweil, the doctor's lawyer, said Kipper could not comment on the
complaint without violating patients' privacy. Harwell said he hoped
to reach a settlement with the board that would allow Kipper to keep
Osbourne became Kipper's patient in June 2002. The singer was overwhelmed
by the success of his new TV series and, by his own account, was "strung
out on narcos."
Osbourne, 55, rose to fame in the late 60's when he formed Black Sabbath,
a British rock quartet often cited as a pioneer in the heavy metal genre.
He launched a solo career in 1979 and went on to sell more than 40 million
Guided by wife Sharon, who is also his manager, he reinvented himself
during the '90s as an elder statesman of heavy metal. His annual "Ozzfest"
tours, featuring Osbourne alongside hot young bands, attract huge audiences.
In March 2002, MTV launched its unscripted series about Osbourne's home
life, portraying him as the doting patriarch of a dysfunctional family.
"The Osbourne's" was an immediate sensation, attracting record audiences
for a cable show and spawning books, DVDs, a clothing line, playing cards
and other merchandising spin-offs.
In May and June of that year, Osbourne signed a $10-Million renewal deal
with MTV. He met President Bush at a Washington dinner. He performed at
Buckingham Palace and shook hands with Queen Elizabeth II.
It was more than Osbourne could handle, and he suffered a relapse,
abusing prescription narcotics. He declined to say what narcotics he
was taking or how he obtained them. Sharon, who had heard about Kipper
from a friend, contacted him to arrange an intervention.
The doctor showed up at the Osbourne mansion with a team of nurses on
June 27, 2002, and began his detox program. The treatment took 10 days.
Kipper charged $30,500 - nearly triple the rate at traditional rehab
By early July, Osbourne was ready to start his next "Ozzfest" tour.
Then he learned that Sharon had cancer. He postponed the first two
concerts while she had surgery. By July 10th, Osbourne was on the road,
performing in Scranton, Pa. But his Emotional state was fragile.
Kipper accompanied him for the first week of the tour to monitor his
recovery. The doctor charged $32,200 for his services and those of
a nurse, records show. The Osbourne's said they also paid for Kipper's
air travel, meals and hotel accommodations.
Episodes of "The Osbourne's" filmed around this time show the star
staring sadly out the window of his tour bus, crying on stage and
leaving distraught phone messages for his wife from hotel rooms
around the country.
"Ozzy couldn't cope," Sharon said. "He was worried I might die. He
According to the Osbourne's, Kipper said he could help.
MORE AND MORE DRUGS
The doctor diagnosed Osbourne as suffering from anxiety and
depression and began treating him for those conditions and for a
tremor that had become more pronounced during the family crisis.
In August 2002, Kipper put Osbourne on Ambien, a sedative often
used for insomnia, and Adderail, an amphetamine mixture. Kipper
also provided nurses to watch over Osbourne at home.
The drug regimen quickly expanded to include anti-anxiety pills,
antipsychotic tablets and antidepressants, as well as stimulants
In September, Kipper added Mysoline, a barbiturate typically
used to prevent seizures. Its side effects include dizziness
and lack of muscle coordination.
Soon Osbourne was also swallowing Zyprexa, an anti psychotic drug
developed to control schizophrenia and other severe mental disorders.
By November 2002, the rock star was taking 13 different medications,
including Valium, an anti-anxiety drug whose side effects can include
clumsiness, grogginess and loss of balance.
Medical literature on Valium cautions that it is habit-forming and
can magnify the effects of sedatives, antidepressants, anti-seizure
medicines and other drugs.
In May 2003, Kipper added the amphetamine Dexedrine to Osbourne's
roster of medications Osbourne said he did not question what Kipper
was doing because he liked and trusted him in all, Kipper prescribed
more than 13,000 doses of 32 different pharmaceuticals between
August 2002 and August 2003, records show.
'The doctor was stimulating him with uppers at the same time he was
knocking him down with tranquilizers and barbiturates, said Thompson,
the USC drug expert.
"On top of that, he was giving him Zyprexa, a drug that should only be
prescribed to extremely psychotic people. These are very powerful
psychotherapeutic drugs that shouldn't just be passed out by an
internist at this potency and frequency," Thompson said.
The experts consulted by The Times said it appeared that Kipper
prescribed some drugs to counteract side effects caused by other
medications Osbourne was taking at his direction.
For example, Zyprexa, the antipsychotic that Osbourne began taking
in October 2002, causes shaking and a ponderous, stiff gait in some
patients. In January, Kipper started the singer on carbidopalevodopa,
a drug used to relieve such symptoms.
Dr. Wayne Sandier, a Century City psychiatrist who reviewed Osbourne's
prescription records for The Times, said it was safer to discontinue
a drug that was causing troublesome side effects than to prescribe
"You just end up chasing one symptom with another," he said. "It's much
more aggressive than you need to be.... What you would normally do is
say, 'Gee, you're having side effects. Why don't we back off on you
taking these medications?'
In addition to the oral medications, Kipper periodically gave Osbourne
shots of buprenorphine mixed with Valium.
Buprenorphine, a chemical cousin of morphine and heroin, is often used
to treat severe, chronic pain. Kipper administered the drug as part
of Osbourne's detox treatment in June 2002. At that time, it was illegal
to use buprenorphine for that purpose in this country.
The Food and Drug Administration has since approved its use for
detoxification, under strict conditions. A physician must take a
state-approved class and obtain certification from the state medical
board. Kipper did not have the certification during the time he was
Records indicate that the doctor gave Osbourne five buprenorphine-Valium
injections in July 2002, four the next month, six in September and six
in October. This year, Kipper gave him two injections in March, seven
in April and eight in May. Kipper charged about $500 each for the shots,
which he de scribed on invoices as "pain injections." Osbourne described
the injections as "cocktails" and said he looked forward to them.
"He brought it to the house. Sometimes I went to get it at his office over
there by the Peninsula, or up at his house on the bill," Osbourne said.
"I quite liked it."
CAPTURED ON MTV
Osbourne's lumbering gait, lack of coordination and garbled speech became
a central theme of "The Osbourne's" during the show's second season,
which aired beginning in November 2002.
MTV crews followed Osbourne to Las Vegas for a performance at the Palms
Hotel. In Vegas: Osbourne seen mumbling incoherently to fans as he wanders
the marble halls of the Venetian hotel-casino.
Kipper, who accompanied Osbourne on a private jet, is seen hanging out with
the singer as he plays slot machines at the Venetian. The Osbourne's paid
Kipper $15,000 for his services on the three-day trip, records show. The
couple says they also paid for his airfare, hotel room and meals.
In another episode of "The Osbourne's," the star walks around in circles
in the middle of his kitchen in Beverly Hills, staring blankly into space.
In a dinner table scene, he smacks him self in the face while trying to
swat a fly.
On camera, everybody in the room laughs. Behind the scenes, friends and
family members were growing increasingly concerned.
"My pharmacist warned me that I was starting to look like death," Osbourne
As her husband was stumbling through episodes of the MTV series, Sharon
was undergoing chemotherapy under the supervision of a cancer specialist.
Kipper, meanwhile, was caring for her at home. She said she had grown fond
of Kipper when he began treating her husband. "When I was going through
my chemotherapy and cancer treatment, he just kind of came and took over,"
she said. Kipper prescribed antianxiety drugs for her and provided
nurses to watch over her at Home. These were in addition to the nurses
Kipper had supplied to tend to Ozzy. Working 12-hour shifts, the pool
of nurses provided coverage seven days a week. They became part of the
backdrop of "The Osbourne's." A review of state records shows that none
of the women were a licensed registered nurse or a licensed vocational
nurse. Yet Kipper charged the couple about $65 an hour for their
services - $25 above the going hourly rate for registered nurses in
Nursing services accounted to for more than $400,000 of the total fees
the Osbourne's paid Kipper, records show.
Harwell, the doctor's attorney, said Kipper could not comment on his
nurses' credentials because "revealing such information would violate
In December 2002, Kipper tried to interest the Osbourne's in upgrading
their medical care. In a letter, he invited them to sign up for his new
"Personal Physician Program" featuring "round-the-clock availability,
cell-phone access, same-day appointments arid no waiting."
The cost: $35,000 a year for the Osbourne's and their three children.
"I am offering this program to a limited number of my devoted patients,"
Kipper wrote. Those who preferred not to join, he explained, would in
the future be treated by one of his associates.
"I have enjoyed a valued friendship and I'm honored to be your doctor,"
the letter said. "I look forward to providing the kind of care you
deserve and need."
ENOUGH IS ENOUGH
The Osbourne's were too distracted to respond.
On Dec. 31, 2002, during taping of the season finale of "The Osbourne's,"
Ozzy got drunk and passed out during a party at the Beverly Hills Hotel
although he was taking 10 different medications at the time, he can be
seen drinking wine, whiskey and beer.
Kipper attended the event. At one point, Osbourne hugs him on camera
and gives him a kiss on the cheek. His assistants say Osbourne was so
inebriated that he had to be carried to bed that night.
By summer, Osbourne said, he was swallowing 42 pills a day. Prescription
records provide a breakdown: Osbourne was taking eight doses of amphetamines
per day, nine doses of tranquilizers, 16 of two different barbiturates,
two anti-seizure tablets, two anticonvulsant pills, two painkillers
and three sleeping pills.
In August, Osbourne was invited to sing "Take Me Out to the Ball Game"
during the seventh- inning stretch at Wrigley Field in Chicago. He
surred his way through the song, mangling the familiar lyrics.
The scene was replayed repeatedly on national TV.
"Ozzy was overmedicated," Sharon Osbourne said. "He couldn't speak. He
couldn't walk. He was falling over. Ozzy would call Kipper and tell him
how bad he was feeling and Kipper would say: 'Take five more of those
and 10 more of these. It was insane."
After the Wrigley Field fiasco, Sharon said, she had enough. She said
she called Kipper and told him to stay away from her husband.
Then, on the advice of a friend, she scheduled an appointment for Ozzy
with Dr. Allan H. Ropper, chief of neurology at Caritas St. Elizabeth's
Medical Center in Boston.
Osbourne flew to Boston in September and met with Ropper.
"He was absolutely flabbergasted about the kinds and amounts of
medication that I was on," Ozzy said. "He asked me, 'Where are you getting
all these pills from?' Then he just threw everything in the trash."
Osbourne said the doctor weaned him off Kipper's medications and wrote
him prescriptions for three drugs, primarily to treat what the singer
described as a hereditary tremor. Ropper declined to comment.
Interviewed at his mansion in October, Osbourne spoke and walked normally,
showing none of the hesitation and confusion he had displayed on
"Looking back on it now, I see Dr. Kipper as sort of a friendly villain,"
Osbourne said. "He befriended me. I liked him. He comes off as a really
nice guy - that is, until you get the bill."