Los Angeles Times

Billy Mays' death: Cocaine not contributing factor

Associated Press Writer

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — The family of TV pitchman Billy Mays released the findings of an independent medical examiner Thursday, who concluded that the informercial star's cocaine use was not a significant contributing factor in his sudden death.

The report, released by a family spokeswoman, does not refute Mays' cocaine use, but states there is no evidence to suggest he was a chronic user. A review of the official autopsy also concludes that "cocaine was not a significant contributing factor" in his death.

"There is no evidence that Mr. Mays' death was related to acute cocaine intoxication with coronary artery spasm or dissection or even aortic dissection for that matter," wrote Dr. William Manion, the independent medical examiner who conducted the review. "Rather, the use of cocaine by Mr. Mays appears to have occurred a remote time several days before his death."

Mays, 50, was found dead in his family's Tampa condo in June.

The Hillsborough County medical examiner's office conducted the official autopsy. The office classified his death as "natural" but said that cocaine use contributed to the heart disease that killed him. Mays' family disagreed with that finding.

"We found this to be so upsetting that we asked for review by an independent medical examiner," Deborah Mays, the late pitchman's wife, said in a statement Thursday.

Manion, chief of pathology for Virtua Health, a multi-hospital health care system based in Marlton, N.J., wrote that he was asked to review the official autopsy and address "the question of whether or not cocaine was a significant contributing cause" in Mays' death.

Manion said that a review of Mays' past and family medical history indicated Mays had mild obesity, a history of smoking and two close relatives with heart conditions.

"Family and friends found no evidence of symptoms or signs of chronic drug use as would be expected in a long-term chronic drug abuser," Manion states in the report.

Other medical conditions consistent with chronic cocaine use — including kidney disease, stroke, and other cardiac conditions — were absent in the autopsy findings.

Hillsborough County released a statement Thursday, saying the medical examiner's office was "aware of media reports regarding a differing opinion of the cause of death," but that it stood by the findings in its autopsy report and had no further comment.

Mays was known for his energetic commercials pitching gadgets and cleaning products like Orange Glo and OxiClean. He got his start on TV on the Home Shopping Network and then branched out into commercials and infomercials. He developed such a strong following that he became the subject of a reality TV series, Discovery Channel's "Pitchmen."

(This version CORRECTS Corrects first reference to medical examiner's last name.)

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