Prince Thought He Was Taking Vicodin, Not Fentanyl-Laced Counterfeit Painkillers

By Bryan Le 04/23/18

No criminal charges will be filed against the doctor accused of illicitly supplying Prince with painkillers.


Minnesota prosecutors have announced that there will be no criminal charges filed in regards to Prince’s death.

The two-year investigation effectively came to a close after no evidence was shown to prove that Prince nor any of those close to him knew that he was taking counterfeit Vicodin containing fentanyl.

Mark Metz, the prosecutor in the Minnesota county where Prince died, made the announcement after documents showed that the doctor accused of illicitly supplying opioids to Prince agreed to pay a $30,000 settlement for a federal civil violation.

Initially, Dr. Michael Todd Schulenberg stood accused of prescribing oxycodone to Prince’s bodyguard to supply the music icon with the pills.

However, the evidence showed that no one knew Prince was being supplied with counterfeit painkillers containing fentanyl, not Vicodin as Prince thought.

The singer was found dead in the elevator at his Paisley Park estate back in April 21, 2016. While fans mourned his passing, Carver County and federal officials got to work investigating the circumstances around his death.

An autopsy revealed Prince was killed by fentanyl, a synthetic opioid said to be 50 times stronger than heroin. He was 57.

The AP reported that a toxicology test showed he had a fentanyl concentration of 67.8 micrograms per liter in his blood, much higher than the known lethal dosage of 3 to 58 micrograms per liter.

In his liver, concentrations were as high as 450 micrograms per liter.

“The amount in his blood is exceedingly high, even for somebody who is a chronic pain patient on fentanyl patches,” said Dr. Lewis Nelson, chairman of emergency medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School.

Investigators attempted to track down who supplied fentanyl to Prince, but were unable to determine the source. Carver County is "effectively" closing the case, and an AP source revealed that the federal investigation will be inactive until new evidence is revealed.

During the investigation, authorities found fentanyl hidden in various misleading containers around Prince’s home, as well as in prescription pill bottles with his bodyguard’s name on it.

“Doctors are trusted medical professionals and, in the midst of our opioid crisis, they must be part of the solution,” said U.S. Attorney Greg Brooker.

The investigation also revealed that Prince had been struggling with opioids and withdrawal. Six days before his death, Prince had to be revived with opioid overdose reversal drugs at an emergency stop after he passed out on a plane. Paisley Park staff had also called an addiction specialist, Dr. Howard Kornfeld, for help.

The next day, Dr. Kornfeld’s son was sent to Paisley Park only to find Prince’s body in the elevator.

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Bryan Le grew up in the 90's, so the Internet is practically his third parent. This combined with a love for journalism led him to The Fix. When he isn't fulfilling his duties as Editorial Coordinator, he's obsessing over fancy keyboards he can't justify buying. Find Bryan on LinkedIn or Twitter