Doctor George Constantine Nichopoulos — the drug-dealing physician who served as Elvis Presley’s personal “Dr. Feelgood” — passed away this week in Memphis, Tenn. He was 88.
The story goes that Elvis could never really pronounce his doctor’s last name, so over the years he just called him “St. Nick.” – as in . . . you know . . . Santa Klaus. Not because he was chubby and wore freaky red clothes. But because he was a cheerful, white-haired fellow who delivered all the fun nighttime presents on Elvis’ wish list. Fans of Elvis had more colorful words for the physician: hundreds of thousands of them blame Nickopoulos for Elvis’ shocking death at the age of only 42. That’s because it was later learned that Doctor Santa Klaus had written Elvis more than 200 prescriptions for 10,000 doses of drugs – amphetamines, barbiturates, narcotics, tranquilizers, sleeping pills, laxatives, and hormones for Presley – in his last 8-months.
Ah, the finest “healthcare” money can buy.
So in 1980, 3 years after Elvis was found dead in his bathroom, the doctor was arrested, charged on 14 counts of overprescribing drugs to Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis, and 12 other people. The district attorney in Memphis initially considered that Murder charges were appropriate, but did not press forward because different doctors were expressing conflicting medical opinions on the exact cause of Presley’s death. Pressley had numerous medical problems. But some poor misguided jury concluded that “Dr Feelgood” really had tried, after all, to act in the best interests of his patients. He was acquitted on all counts.
The Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners was less naïve, and found him guilty of over-prescribing narcotics. But in a legal twist to beat all twists, they concluded that the drug-pushing lab coat nutcase was not “unethical”. They imposed 90-day suspension of his license.
Well, that ought a teach him, right? You know, send a drug pusher to his room?
In 1995, Nichopoulos had his license permanently revoked by the same Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners, after it was determined that he really had been pushing drugs for fun & profit to many, many people over the years. Nichopoulos claimed it was for patients who suffered from chronic pain, but the Board knew better. Nichopoulos did finally confess to the Medical Board that he had overprescribed because he “cared too much.”
According to 2 independent medical labs, the following drugs were found in Presley’s bloodstream:
- Codeine, “very high dose”
- Methaqualone, “very high dose”
Those medications taken in a single day by a non drug addict could kill a person within an hour.
The fact that drug-pushing had made him extremely wealthy, and allowed him to travel in the company of some of the most famous entertainers on the planet, never really mattered to him at all. Riiight.
Nichopoulos actually started treating Presley in 1967 for back pain. Within 3 years, making himself available to issue drugs to Elvis anytime night or day, became his full-time job. And with all the girls in the swimming pools and the food and the night clubs and the sexy music, life was really, really fun. Right up until the morning of August 16, 1977, when his very, very famous patient had to go and spoil everything by – you know – dying next to his toilet.
Damn it, Elvis.
This case – for those of us who look into such things – bears a striking, spooky resemblance to the Doctor Conrad Murray/ Michael Jackson relationship years later. Jackson also was the most famous singer in the world in his era; Jackson also became a totally drug-dependent entertainer with a very strange, private life; and of course there is simply no slicker way to get the drugs you want, than to hire a live-in doctor drug-pusher – one willing to prostitute his profession for serious, serious cash, as well as the seductive access to fame.
In the years following Elvis’ death this fellow operated a clinic for a decade, until the state of Tennessee stripped him of his medical license in 1995. He then took a job evaluating workers compensation insurance claims for FedEx , whose main office is also in Memphis. In the last years of his life he sold souvenirs from Elvis at auctions, and at one point had a travelling exhibit, showing off his doctor’s bag with some of the medications he prescribed for Elvis.
A career drug dealer showing off his drug case for money. What could be more appropriate that that?
And you wonder why we call healthcare the Twilight Zone? Really?