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Pain clinic doctor tied to 68 deaths

/ Source: The Associated Press

The high number of patient deaths at their clinic should have alerted a Kansas doctor and his wife that their policies, practices and prescriptions were deadly, a federal prosecutor told jurors Tuesday.

Dr. Stephen Schneider and his wife, Linda, have been charged with unlawfully prescribing drugs, health care fraud and money laundering at their Haysville clinic, which has been linked to 68 deaths.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Tanya Treadway said in closing arguments Tuesday that evidence presented during the eight-week trial told "a sordid tale of how money, not medicine" controlled the defendants' actions. She said the Schneiders cheated people out of life.

Defense attorneys were to make their closing arguments later Tuesday. The defense has challenged autopsy findings that drug overdoses caused the deaths. Schneider testified he was duped by patients who faked their pain.

Summing up, Treadway recounted patients' testimony that Schneider was known as a "drug dealer in a white coat" or "Schneider the Writer." Another called the Schneider Medical Clinic "the Burger King for pain pill addicts."

Treadway said the clinic wrote prescriptions 76 times for patients after they had gone to hospital emergency rooms for overdoses. In 46 of those instances, the prescriptions provided the same drugs that the patients had overdosed on.

The government has attributed 176 overdoses and deaths to their Haysville clinic, noting 18 percent of drug overdose deaths in a multi-county area were its patients.

"If this clinic was a legitimate pain management practice ... the defendants would have taken action in the face of these overdoses and deaths," Treadway said.

But the clinic took no action, she said, noting the doctor once called the people who died of overdoses "bad grapes."

Government and private insurance programs paid more than $6 million for controlled drugs prescribed by the clinic, losses the programs should not have paid, she said.

Among those drugs he should not have filed was the potent, highly addictive drug Actiq, which is approved only for terminal cancer patients. The Schneiders indiscriminately prescribed Actiq to 37 individuals without a legitimate medical purpose, Treadway said.

She reminded jurors of one patient who worked as a stripper and who was prescribed the anxiety drug Xanex for her performance anxiety.

Treadway told jurors their experts were professional, credible and gave detailed explanations to help them decide their case and derided the defense experts as untruthful who were paid a hefty price tag for their testimony.

"It wasn't a battle it wasn't even a skirmish it was more of a smackdown by the government's witnesses," she said.