Painkiller Overdose Deaths Lead to Guilty Verdict for Doctor and Wife
A Kansas couple has been found guilty of running an illegal prescription pain medication operation, which prosecutors called a “pill mill.” The doctor and his wife have been linked to at least 68 overdose deaths.
Dr. Stephen Schneider and his wife, Linda, face up to life in prison after they were convicted last month on charges of conspiracy, unlawful distribution of drugs, health care fraud, and money laundering by a federal court in Wichita. The couple was accused of defrauding insurers and patients by falsifying billing for the services they provided, and of providing powerful painkillers haphazardly to both those in need and drug addicts.
While prosecutors said the couple’s actions caused 68 deaths, they were only charged in connection to 21 of those painkiller overdose deaths. In one case, the Schneiders prescribed Actiq fentanyl lollipops to a woman with migraine headaches, causing her to overdose on the potent drug.
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Stephen Schneider operated the Schneider Medical Clinic in Haysville, a suburb of Wichita. His wife, Linda, was the clinic’s office manager. Former patients of the clinic said that the drug prescriptions were handed out with a bare minimum of medical examination, and testified that prescription drugs were often traded among patients in the waiting room like a pharmaceutical swap meet.
The U.S. District Court jury deliberated for seven days before finding Dr. Schneider guilty of 19 criminal counts, including illegally prescribing narcotics, money laundering and health care fraud. Linda Schneider was found guilty on 32 counts, including 15 money laundering convictions. Some of the crimes carry a minimum sentence of 20 years in prison.
The defense moved to have the verdict thrown out, saying there was not enough evidence for the jury to have convicted, but U.S. District Judge Monti Belot denied their motion, saying there was enough evidence for the jury to have reached guilty verdicts. Belot also denied a defense request to release the couple from jail prior to sentencing, saying that the defense had failed to prove that the couple was not a flight risk.
In April, a drug overdose study by researchers at the West Virginia University School of Medicine found that the number of people hospitalized due to overdoses from drugs like OxyContin, fentanyl and morphine are now 65% higher than they were from 1999 through 2006. That number is twice the increase seen in hospitalizations for other drugs.
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