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Cold medicines contributed to Brittany Murphy's death, coroner says

By Alan Duke, CNN
Actress Brittany Murphy died last December. She was 32.
Actress Brittany Murphy died last December. She was 32.
  • Brittany Murphy apparently took drugs for a cold or respiratory infection
  • Death ruled a combination of pneumonia, an iron deficiency and "multiple drug intoxication"
  • Murphy, known for "8 Mile" and "Clueless," died December 20; she was 32

Los Angeles, California (CNN) -- The drugs involved in actress Brittany Murphy's death last December were apparently used to treat a cold or respiratory infection, the Los Angeles County coroner's autopsy concluded.

An earlier statement from the coroner said Murphy's death was an accident caused by a combination of pneumonia, an iron deficiency and "multiple drug intoxication."

The full autopsy report made public Thursday details what drugs were found in the 32-year-old actress's body after she died in her Hollywood Hills home December 20.

"Multiple medications were present in the blood, with elevated levels of hydrocodone, acetaminophen, and chlorpheniramine. L-methamphetamine was also present," the report said.

The coroner said "the pattern of use of these medications suggest treatment of symptoms of a cold or other respiratory infection."

"Acetaminophen and hydrocodone are components of Vicodin. Chlorpheniramine is the active ingredient in some over-the-counter medications. L-methamphetamine is a component of some inhalers."

All of the drugs are legal, the report said.

The death was ruled an accident because "possible adverse physiological effects of elevated levels of these medications cannot be discounted, especially in her weakened state," the report said.

The autopsy showed Murphy was suffering from "acute pneumonia consistent with a community-acquired infection."

The "chronic iron deficiency" she had -- likely caused by heavy menstrual periods -- "leads to a weakened state of health and would increase her vulnerability to infection," the report said.

Her husband, British screenwriter Simon Monjack, has told People magazine the actress had "laryngitis and flu-like symptoms" at the time of her death.

Monjack said Murphy used Vicoprofen to relieve pain from severe menstrual cramps. Vicoprofen includes hydrocodone and ibuprofen.

"She was on an antibiotic and was taking cough medicine," he said.

Murphy was pronounced dead at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles after she was rushed there in the early morning hours of Sunday, December 20.

The often bubbly, free-spirited actress appeared in films such as "Clueless," "8 Mile," "Don't Say a Word" and "Girl, Interrupted." She also lent her voice to animated works, including the movie "Happy Feet" -- in which she also sang -- and a regular role on the animated TV series "King of the Hill."

Murphy was best-known for her work in a string of comedies earlier this decade, including playing lead roles in "Uptown Girls" alongside fellow Georgia native Dakota Fanning, and "Little Black Book" with Holly Hunter and Kathy Bates.

She is survived by her husband.