Propofol (INN, marketed as Diprivan by AstraZeneca) is a short-acting, intravenously administered hypnotic/amnestic agent. Its uses include the induction and maintenance of general anesthesia, sedation for mechanically ventilated adults, and procedural sedation. Propofol is also commonly used in veterinary medicine. Propofol is approved for use in more than 50 countries, and generic versions are available.
Chemically, propofol is unrelated to barbiturates and has largely replaced sodium thiopental (Pentothal) for induction of anesthesia because recovery from propofol is more rapid and "clear" when compared with thiopental. Propofol is not considered an analgesic, so opioids such as fentanyl may be combined with propofol to alleviate pain. Propofol has been referred to as milk of amnesia (a play on words of milk of magnesia), because of the milk-like appearance of its intravenous preparation. It is on the World Health Organization's List of Essential Medicines, a list of the most important medication needed in a health system.
Sodium thiopental was discovered in the early 1930s by Ernest H. Volwiler and Donalee L. Tabern, working for Abbott Laboratories. It was first used in human beings on March 8, 1934, by Dr. Ralph M. Waters in an investigation of its properties, which were short-term anesthesia and surprisingly little analgesia. Three months later, Dr. John S. Lundy started a clinical trial of thiopental at the Mayo Clinic at the request of Abbott. Abbott continued to make the drug until 2004, when it spun off its hospital-products division as Hospira.
Thiopental is famously associated with a number of anesthetic deaths in victims of the attack on Pearl Harbor as well as the popular singer, Michael Jackson.
Thiopental is still rarely used as a recreational drug, usually stolen from veterinarians or other legitimate users of the drug; however, more common sedatives such as benzodiazepines are usually preferred as recreational drugs, and abuse of thiopental tends to be uncommon and opportunistic