BY JEREMY OLSON
MINNEAPOLIS – A doctor who provided medical care to Prince at the time he died of an opioid drug overdose has been disciplined for surreptitiously providing addictive painkillers to the pop star in someone else’s name.
The Minnesota Board of Medical Practice issued a $4,648 fine to Dr. Michael Todd Schulenberg for medical ethics and record-keeping violations as well as for hindering its initial inquiry into the doctor’s prescribing of drugs to Prince, who was found dead from an opioid overdose in his home in April 2016.
The board order approving the disciplinary action only identifies Prince as “Patient #1” and Kirk Johnson, his longtime friend who obtained prescriptions for him, as “Patient #2.” But it describes circumstances that were widely reported following Prince’s death and revealed in search warrants and other law enforcement documents regarding his death investigation.
Schulenberg initially told authorities with the state medical board that he didn’t know, when prescribing painkillers to Johnson, that they were actually for Prince. However, his story changed when meeting with board authorities again last August and discussing one clinic visit.
“Patient #2 initially asked for a controlled substance for Patient #1, but (Schulenberg) declined,” the records state. “Patient #2 then asked for a controlled substance for Patient #2, and (Schulenberg) issued a prescription for a controlled substance.”
Whether Prince took the opioid painkillers prescribed by Schulenberg is unclear. His overdose death was linked to other counterfeit pills that looked like common painkillers but actually contained fentanyl, a far more potent and dangerous synthetic opioid.
No criminal charges
Reports revealed that Prince had been taking opioids to manage chronic hip pain, and that he suffered a near-fatal overdose days before his death when flying back from a concert in Atlanta.
No criminal charges were filed in his death because authorities were unable after a two year investigation to identify the source of the counterfeit pills that Prince took.
Schulenberg had provided direct medical care to Prince, including making a house call to his Paisley Park mansion in Chanhassen two weeks before he died. Prince also went to Schulenberg’s clinic the day before he died.
Texts collected as part of the death investigation show that Schulenberg was concerned about Prince and had recommended that Johnson seek addiction treatment for him from Dr. Howard Kornfeld, a renowned addiction specialist in California.
Kornfeld’s son flew to Minnesota to provide addiction medication to Prince but arrived the morning after he had died.
The state licensing investigation started after Schulenberg disclosed to the board, as required, that he had been the subject of a federal court settlement. The doctor paid $30,000 in 2018 to settle a federal case regarding his prescribing to Prince.
A call to the attorney representing Schulenberg in the state board action was not immediately returned on Monday.
Reprimand and fine
Schulenberg, as part of the federal settlement, was required for two years to document and report all of his prescriptions of controlled substances.
The doctor received a formal reprimand in addition to the fine from the state medical board, which issued the disciplinary action Jan. 11 and publicly announced it last week.
A wrong deathful lawsuit filed by Prince’s relatives against Schulenberg and other medical providers was recently dismissed, implying that settlements were reached.