I was at my weekly routine at the local grocery store, trying to check out all the items in my shopping cart. I took out my reusable grocery bags that I have collected over the years – with most of them from pharmaceutical conferences and meetings, paying little attention to the writings on these bags. But the lady at the cash register took a keen interest in one of my bags – the bright red one, it said “Propofol Injection”.

Her eyes widened, “Isn’t it what killed Michael Jackson?”. Then all the surrounding heads that were previously preoccupied with their own business perked up, looked in my direction and waited for my response, as if I was the one who killed Michael Jackson. I didn’t expect to draw the attention that I obviously did. So I nodded, “Yes it was. Trust me, you don’t want to need Propofol ever”.

Propofol is a short acting sedative / hypnotic used in anesthesia or sedation, usually in the setting of operating room, procedural sedation or intensive care unit. It is given as an injectable or an infusion. Basically when it is used on you, you are likely unconscious or unaware at the moment.  It is such a specialized drug used in specific settings, that I don’t expect the general public to have any knowledge of it. I expect the public to know about Aspirin, the statins, few common antibiotics and of course the countless over-the-counter medications and supplements. But propofol? It’s amazing how its connection to the iconic figure of Michael Jackson brings such strong awareness of the medication.

Then I start to wonder – can we tap into the power of celebrity to promote healthy habits? In fact, many famous figures are already engaged in some form of public health campaigns.  Jennifer Garner promotes the use of season flu vaccines and is the “Faces of influenza” campaign and Jennifer Lopez is the spokesperson for Sounds of Pertussis.  But if my grocery bag said “Flu Vaccines”, I doubt the lady will ask me “If this is what saved the elderly lady in the nursing home?” I guess people just aren’t interested when a medical intervention has saved lives, even with the help of the celebrity’s influence.

Why are we drawn into negative dramas all the time? I guess that’s because they are more interesting.