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Model’s Self-Diagnosis May Have Killed Her

July 5, 1995

PEMBROKE PINES, Fla. (AP) _ Though model Krissy Taylor was never diagnosed with asthma, she bought an over-the-counter inhaler to treat what her family said were breathing problems. That may have killed her.

``She’s not supposed to use it just because she’s having respiratory problems,″ Dr. Joshua Perper, Broward County chief medical examiner, said Tuesday.

While test results are still pending, Perper said the inhalant may have caused an irregular heartbeat that could have killed the 17-year-old girl.

Her 20-year-old sister, supermodel Niki Taylor, found her collapsed on the living room floor of the family’s home early Sunday. Authorities said she had used the inhaler at least two hours before she died, and she had no history of substance abuse.

Taylor, a 5-foot 11-inch beauty who had appeared on the cover of magazines such as Seventeen and YM, had been using Primatene Mist for about a year, relatives told Perper.

Her pediatrician, William Bruno, said he didn’t know she had breathing problems and never prescribed any respiratory medication for her.

``Sometimes anxiety can cause breathing problems,″ Perper said. ``If this was caused by anxiety, the drug wouldn’t have helped her, it would have harmed her.″

The active ingredient in Primatene Mist is epinephrine, also known as adrenaline, which raises blood pressure and quickens the the heartbeat.

The inhaler comes with a warning that it not be used unless a doctor has diagnosed asthma. It also cautions that, ``Excessive use may cause nervousness and rapid heart beat, and possibly, adverse effects on the heart.″

Perper said it was puzzling that a drug that shouldn’t be used without a doctor’s diagnosis is available without a doctor’s prescription.

Teen-agers have been known to buy over-the-counter inhalers for the adrenaline rush. Combining it with caffeine, freon or marijuana intensifies the effect, Perper said.

``Access to the drug has been responsible for a lot of illness and also a lot of deaths,″ said Nancy Sander, founder and president of Mothers of Asthmatics Inc., a nonprofit organization based in Fairfax, Va., pressing to have have over-the-counter inhalers changed to prescription drugs.

Last November, a congressional panel heard testimony about the potential dangers of Primatene Mist but took no action on whether to recommend it be changed to a prescription drug.

Messages left Tuesday with the inhaler’s manufacturer, Whitehall Laboratories in Madison, N.J., were not immediately returned. A guard said the office was closed for the holiday.

Sander, an asthmatic and mother of an asthmatic, said many people don’t understand how an inhaler works. People think it will restore breathing by unplugging the airway, when in fact, it relaxes the muscles and does nothing to relieve congestion, she said.

``It’s not that the drug is at fault, it’s the way it’s being administered and what the patient is expecting the drug to do,″ she said.

Private services for Taylor will be held at the end of this week, said George Dassinger, a family spokesman.


In lieu of flowers, the family asks that donations be made to: D.I.S.H.E.S. Project, Inc., Box 3939, New York, N.Y. 10185.

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