ATLANTA – The personal doctor of Chris Benoit, the pro wrestler who killed his wife and son and then committed suicide in June, prescribed pain killers and muscle relaxers to another pro wrestler who died last year.
Dr. Phil Astin, who faces federal charges of overprescribing medication to two patients other than Benoit, wrote four prescriptions for painkillers within a 25-day period in March 2005 for Michael Durham, according to pharmacy records Durham’s widow gave to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
Durham wrestled under the stage name “Johnny Grunge.”
Durham’s prescriptions included two for 60 350-milligram Soma pills, a powerful muscle relaxer, over a four-day period.
Overall, Astin’s signature was on 32 of the final 36 prescriptions Durham received over the last year of his life, including the final one given to him the day before his death on Feb. 16, 2006 at age 40, the pharmacy records show. All 120 of those 350-milligram Soma pills were missing the next day when authorities discovered Durham’s body, Tyrone police officials have said.
Durham’s autopsy report attributed the official causes of death to blockage of vessels supplying blood to the heart, but cited toxic levels of Soma, and the painkiller hydrocodone as contributing factors.
Authorities began investigating Astin after the deaths of Benoit and his family. Prosecutors have said Benoit, 40, strangled his wife with a cord, used a choke hold to strangle his 7-year-old son, placed Bibles next to the bodies and hanged himself on a piece of exercise equipment in their home the weekend of June 22.
Testosterone was discovered at Benoit’s Fayetteville home. Astin said he had been supplying Benoit with the steroids and was soon indicted by federal authorities on seven counts of overprescribing to two people, although Benoit was not one of them.
The revelations about Durham led a medical specialist to question Astin’s actions.
“You’ve got a lot of meds in a short period of time,” said Dr. Barry Straus of the North Georgia Pain Clinic and a case reviewer for the state medical board. “The doses aren’t necessarily odd – it’s just the jump-start. If he had worked up to those levels, it’s no big deal.”
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