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Coroner Discounts Prozac Dose as Factor in McDougal's Death

From news services
Friday, May 1, 1998; Page A22

DALLAS, April 30—Imprisoned Whitewater figure James B. McDougal died of natural causes, even though he had an abnormal amount of the antidepressant drug Prozac in his system, a medical examiner said today.

Tarrant County Medical Examiner Nizam Peerwani said that McDougal, 57, suffered a sudden heart attack while in solitary confinement at a federal prison in Fort Worth March 8 but that it was unrelated to the Prozac in his system.

"There is no evidence of foul play," Peerwani said. "It was a run-of-the-mill natural death."

McDougal, a former business partner of President Clinton and first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, had been in failing health for years.

Peerwani discounted reports that McDougal had been given too much Prozac, saying he had been receiving about 60 milligrams per day, well within the normal range of 20 to 100 milligrams.

"It is a very safe drug with very little side effects," Peerwani said, although he said there are some cases on record in which high levels of Prozac might have contributed to a death.

Daniel R. Dunne, a spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Prisons in Washington, said the level of Prozac in McDougal's system "was consistent with his medical needs" and that McDougal had been advised about the dosage. "The amount of medication that he was on did not contribute to his death," Dunne said.

The executor of McDougal's Arkansas estate said the autopsy results were a comfort because conspiracy theories about his death had been expected. "We should be grateful of what they are saying: that there was nothing extremely amiss," said Claudia Riley of Arkadelphia, Ark.

© Copyright 1998 The Washington Post Company

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