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Harsh Reality of 'Osbournes' No Laughing Matter

The hit show's star says he was 'wiped out' on drugs ordered by a physician investigated for overprescribing for others.

December 07, 2003|Chuck Philips | Times Staff Writer

Week after week, viewers tuning in to the hit reality series "The Osbournes" 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, Mysoline, Adderall and a host of other powerful medications. They were all prescribed by a Beverly Hills physician who, unknown to Osbourne, was under investigation for overprescribing 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 antipsychotic.

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. Kipper administered a 10-day detoxification treatment. Osbourne was grateful. Then his wife, Sharon, was diagnosed with cancer, and 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 associate 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 care.

"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-bedroom, 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 Osbournes 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 Osbournes."

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.

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