Kansas "Pill Mill" Linked To 4 Deaths

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A physician accused of operating a "pill mill" was charged Thursday with illegally prescribing drugs in a scheme that prosecutors say caused the overdose deaths of at least four patients.

A Topeka grand jury returned a 34-count indictment against Dr. Stephen J. Schneider and his wife, nurse Linda K. Schneider, who were arrested Wednesday, U.S. Attorney Eric Melgren said. They are to appear in federal court in Wichita on counts including conspiracy, unlawful distribution of a controlled substance, health care fraud, illegal monetary transactions and money laundering.

According to the indictment, 56 of the doctor's patients have died from accidental prescription drug overdoses in the past five years. However, the indictment said only four of the deaths were found to be directly caused by drugs prescribed by Schneider's clinic in Haysville, south of Wichita.

The Schneiders are not charged with killing any patients.

A person who answered the phone at the Schneider Medical Clinic on Thursday said there was no one available to comment. Stephen Schneider's lawyer, David Schippers, did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

The indictment alleges that the 54-year-old doctor and his assistants wrote unlawful prescriptions for narcotic painkillers, muscle relaxers and other drugs. Drugs mentioned in the indictment included fentanyl, methadone, morphine and oxycodone. It also alleges the clinic submitted fraudulent claims to health care benefit programs.

According to the indictment, Linda Schneider, 49, bragged when interviewing prospective employees that the clinic, with its large number of pain-management patients, wrote more narcotics prescriptions than any other medical clinic in the state.