Famous singers, actors, and actresses have enough money to live the life of luxury, and their privileges also include their own private doctors. Although the public doesn’t hear too much about famous people’s doctors, they’re out there.
It’s safe to say many people know who Elvis Presley is. The last doctor he had, George C. Nichopoulos, recently died in Memphis at 88-years old. This doctor gained infamy when the world found out how Elvis really died.
Nichopoulos was Presley’s personal physician before Presley died in 1977. The doctor ended up losing his medical license when it was learned he was over-prescribing addictive drugs to the famous singer, and several other patients as well.
Dr. Nichopoulos, also known as Dr. Nick, was a doctor at a Memphis medical center in 1967. During that year he was asked to visit Presley’s home to tend to him. The singer at the time was suffering from saddle sores on his thighs and buttocks, brought about by too much horseback riding.
The two immediately hit it off, so Presley kept Dr. Nick as his physician for years. Every time Presley flew in from Hollywood, Dr. Nick was on speed dial to treat the singer’s aches and pains. Two of his more frequent health issues were insomnia and rheumatic pain.
In 1970, Presley returned to Memphis permanently and Dr. Nick became his permanent physician. During the investigation that followed Presley’s death, Dr. Nick told investigators that the two men had been close friends over the years, forming a bond. He also told investigators that he was Presley’s father-figure, best friend, and doctor. He saw to it that he would be there for Presley when he needed him.
On August 16, 1977 42-year-old Presley was found slumped over in his bathroom in Graceland, apparently having died of a coronary arrhythmia resulting from hypertensive heart disease related to his high blood pressure. However, a toxicology report conducted by the medical examiner suggests that drugs may have played a role in his death as well. The report showed high levels of codeine, the sedative Ethinamate, Quaaludes, and an unknown barbiturate. There was also a small amount of morphine, Demerol, Placidyl, Valium, and Chlorpheniramine. In a 1981 interview, Dr. Nick claims he had given Presley only two of the drugs that were found in his system.
In 1980 Dr. Nick was indicted on 14 counts of over-prescribing stimulants, depressants, and painkillers. He was also cited for prescribing medications to Jerry Lee Lewis and several other patients. Dr. Nick went to court on two counts for his dealings with Presley, accused of “unlawfully, willfully and feloniously” prescribing those drugs. In the months before Presley died he was on an immense amount of painkillers, depressants, and appetite suppressants.
Dr. Nick was acquitted of all charges. In 1995 the Tennessee Board of Medical Examiners permanently suspended his medical license, accepting the evidence that he had been over-prescribing to several patients over the years.
In many appeals to the board, Dr. Nick admitted to over-prescribing. In 1977 alone he had written prescriptions for more than 10,000 doses of opiates, amphetamines, barbiturates, tranquilizers, hormones, and laxatives for Presley alone. However, he denied being considered a feel-good doctor by giving in to his patients’ demands. He claimed that he had cared too much about his patients, which is why he over-prescribed.
In a 2010 memoir written with Rose Clayton Phillips, Dr. Nick explained that the reason he over-prescribed was so he could treat Presley’s entourage, band, and crew along with the singer. That way, the band would have their medications while on the road. He also admitted that he knew of Presley’s drug addictions and tried administering placebos quite often in order to get the singer to quit.
He had added in an interview that while many people can use strong painkillers and drugs and be fine after their round of medication, Presley could not. Presley was “convinced he needed drugs.”
George Constantine Nichopoulos was born on October 29, 1927 in Ridgway, Pennsylvania, and grew up in Anniston, Alabama. His father was a Greek immigrant who had opened up a small restaurant called Gus’ Sanitary Café.
Nichopoulous had enlisted in the Army out of high school and served in Germany in the Army Medical Corps. After he left the Army, he enrolled in a pre-med program at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, graduating with a bachelor’s degree in 1951. He worked in clinical physiology at the University of Tennessee Medical School and earned a medical degree from Vanderbilt University Medical School in 1959.
He started out in a group practice with five other doctors in Memphis, who focused on internal medicine before Presley called to him. Little did he know that tending to the famous singer would ruin his life and career.
In 1980, before he got indicted, the state board of medical examiners had cleared him of charges of unethical conduct and barred him from practicing medicine for three months. They then put him on probation for three years; his permanent suspension came 15 years later.
Dr. Nick tried to tell his readers in his memoir that drugs did not kill Presley. Apparently, the singer had a handful of medical issues such as mild diabetes, glaucoma, migraines, insomnia, adrenal deficiency, and allergies that caused nose and throat problems. He speculated that the reason Presley died was from the stress of making a bowel movement.
After his license was taken away, Nichopoulos worked for the disability claims department at a Federal Express office, and also briefly worked as road manager for Jerry Lee Lewis.