Hall of Shame 2010: Dr. Stephen Schneider

By James Quiggle
January 2, 2011

Deadly drug con: money before medicine

Drug addicts knew that Dr. Stephen Schneider reliably supplied the narcotics they needed to get through the day.

StephenSchneider2The Wichita, Kansas-area doctor ran a deadly pill mill — more of a drug market than clinic. Schneider freely spooned out powerful painkillers and other prescription drugs to so many addicts that they lined up outside his clinic door.

Sixty-eight patients died from overdoses linked to illegal insurer-paid prescriptions handed out in volume to addicts by Schneider and his unqualified staff. At least 176 overdoses stemmed from his operation, prosecutors contended at his trial. Schneider’s outfit wrote dozens of prescriptions for patients even after they’d overdosed and gone to hospital emergency rooms.

Drugs were so easy to obtain that addicts called Schneider the Candyman.

He accounted for nearly 20 percent of overdose deaths in the Sedgwick County area from 2002 through 2007. All the while, the clinic billed insurers $6 million in ill-gotten gains.

Exams were brief. Diversion of prescription drugs has reached epidemic levels around the U.S. Health insurers pay much of the tab thanks to illegal and inflated billing by swindlers.

Patients were hustled through the clinic’s factory line. Many were examined for just minutes before being handed prescriptions for narcotic drugs.

He also left blank pads of signed prescriptions so ill-trained staffers with little supervision could dispense drugs the employees couldn’t legally prescribe. Schneider’s nurse wife Linda forged his signature to other scripts. Staffers illegally dolled out death-dealing prescriptions even when he was out of the country.

An amputee’s decomposing body was found in his Wichita home. He’d taken the painkiller oxycodone and a muscle relaxant together in an accidental death after receiving drugs from Schneider.

Cancer drug over-prescribed. Another patient died four days after receiving a prescription for 120 Actiq lollipops for her headaches. The painkiller is so powerful that it’s manufactured solely for terminal cancer patients. Schneider indiscriminately prescribed Actiq to 37 patients without a legitimate medical need, prosecutors charged.

Schneider never cleaned up his drug-dealing practices even after receiving notice that patients were ending up in morgues and emergency rooms.

His wife Linda was a registered nurse who helped keep the pill spigot flowing. She ran the clinic’s day-to-day operations, including managing the money and other clinic records. She also laundered more than $100,000 of the clinic’s income to a Mexican bank account.

Schneider received 30 years in state prison, and Linda 33 years. They’re appealing. “(Patients) came for help and paid, some of them, with the ultimate price,” prosecutor Tanya Treadway told the jury.

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