If Prince was seeking help for a problem with prescription drugs, it would make sense for him to turn to a Californian addiction specialist known for new ideas on treatment. Less clear is why he sought care from a local family care physician, specialising in obstetrics, who met with Prince twice in the weeks before his death and prescribed him unknown medications.
The day Prince died, he was scheduled to meet with the son of Dr Howard Kornfeld, the California specialist in addiction treatment and pain management. But in the weeks before Prince’s death on 21 April, he twice met Dr Michael Todd Schulenberg, who worked at a Minnetonka clinic a few miles from Prince’s Paisley Park studio and home, according to search warrant documents released Tuesday.
Prince’s cause of death is still unknown, as the autopsy results haven’t been released. But a law enforcement official has told the Associated Press that investigators are looking into the possibility that Prince died from an overdose and whether a doctor was prescribing him drugs in the weeks before his death. The official has been briefed on the investigation and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because he wasn’t authorised to speak to the media.
Investigators interviewed Schulenberg the day Prince died and searched a suburban Minneapolis hospital that employed him. The warrant documents didn’t specify what medications were prescribed or whether Prince took them.
The warrant details came out the same day investigators returned to Prince’s estate and stayed for several hours without saying why.
The official who spoke to AP said investigators are seeking to identify every doctor and pharmacy that may have supplied the singer prescription drugs, including online sources, and that the search involves examining computer drives from Prince’s home.
It remains unclear why Prince, a world-famous musician worth millions, would seek the help of an experienced but seemingly ordinary local physician instead of first turning to world-class healthcare. The Minneapolis Star Tribune, citing a source with knowledge of the investigation, previously reported that Prince had been receiving treatment for withdrawal symptoms from a doctor who previously worked with Prince’s longtime friend Kirk Johnson.
Johnson’s attorney, F Clayton Tyler, didn’t immediately respond to a message seeking to confirm that Johnson and Prince shared Schulenberg as a doctor.
Schulenberg, 46, worked for North Memorial Medical Center until at least the day of Prince’s death, but he has since left the job. Lesa Bader, a spokeswoman for the healthcare system, said North Memorial’s personnel records were private and she couldn’t comment on why Schulenberg no longer works there.
In a 2012 YouTube video posted by the University of St Thomas in Minneapolis that was taken down on Wednesday, where Schulenberg earned his MBA in health care, the doctor said he was part of the “leadership group” at Ridgeview Medical Center in Carver County and that his job required him to put in demanding hours. The Ridgeview website said Schulenberg specialised in family medicine and obstetrics.
Johnson, Prince’s friend, is mentioned in the search warrant documents as having been interviewed by investigators and telling them of medical treatment that Prince received for an unspecified illness in 2014 or 2015 at the Two Twelve Medical Center in Chaska. Schulenberg worked for Ridgeview Medical Center, which operates the Two Twelve, until August 2014, though its unknown whether he worked at Two Twelve when Prince was treated there.
According to the search warrant revealed Tuesday, Schulenberg had seen Prince on 7 April and on 20 April, the day before he died. Schulenberg told investigators he came upon the death scene at Paisley Park while dropping off unspecified test results for Prince on 21 April.
The day before he died, representatives for Prince reached out to Dr Howard Kornfeld seeking help for the musician, William Mauzy, a lawyer for the California doctor, said last week. Kornfeld couldn’t immediately fly to Minnesota to meet with Prince, so he sent his son Andrew that night instead, he said.
Andrew Kornfeld had a small amount of the prescription drug buprenorphine and planned to give it to a Minnesota doctor who was scheduled to see Prince the next morning, said Mauzy, who wouldn’t disclose the doctor’s name. Andrew was among three people at Paisley Park when Prince was found unresponsive, and he called 911.
Schulenberg’s name doesn’t appear on a list of Minnesota doctors authorised to treat opioid dependency with the buprenorphine, according to a database maintained by the federal Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. The drug, which is also known by its brand name Suboxone, helps control drug cravings and withdrawal symptoms. To be certified, doctors are required to undergo an eight-hour training course.