Pubdate: Fri, 05 Nov 2004
Source: Richmond Times-Dispatch (VA)
Copyright: 2004 Richmond Newspapers Inc.
Author: Matthew Barakat, Associated Press
Bookmark: (Chronic Pain)
Bookmark: (Oxycontin/Oxycodone)


Prosecutor Calls Him 'A Mere Drug Dealer' To OxyContin Addicts

ALEXANDRIA - A prominent doctor on trial for drug trafficking was
following an emerging medical trend by prescribing massive amounts of
painkillers to desperate patients, his lawyer told jurors yesterday.

Prosecutors, on the other hand, said pain-management doctor William
Hurwitz knowingly prescribed OxyContin and other addictive drugs to
dealers and in such massive doses - up to 600 OxyContin pills a day
for one patient - that two patients seeking legitimate treatment died
of overdoses.

"He crossed the line from self-proclaimed healer to a mere drug
dealer," prosecutor Mark Lytle told jurors during opening statements
of a federal trial expected to last up to two months. Hurwitz could be
sentenced to life in prison if convicted of the most serious charges
in the 62-count indictment.

Lytle said Hurwitz advertised his pain-management philosophy on a Web
site, and his McLean office became a haven for "people who had needle
marks, people acting drunk and stoned and passing out."

But Hurwitz's lawyer, Patrick Hallinan, said the Stanford medical
graduate follows a pain-management theory that advocates very high
doses of opioid drugs such as OxyContin, and he was only seeking to
provide relief to patients with debilitating pain. The lawyer also
denied that the two deaths resulted from overdoses.

"This is not a case about drug dealing. This is a case about a new
science," Hallinan said.

The charges against Hurwitz are the result of a federal investigation
called "Operation Cotton Candy," which has resulted in dozens of
OxyContin-related convictions. Hurwitz, who has given speeches
referring to "thuggish drug-control police" and was featured on "60
Minutes" for his unconventional views, appears to be one of the major
targets of the investigation.

Hallinan said Hurwitz had no idea some of his patients were dealing
drugs and said he was the victim of con artists who knew how to lie to
doctors to get the drugs they needed.

Hurwitz "had never met people like these patients," Hallinan said.
"They were alien to him. They took advantage of him."

Siobhan Reynolds - executive director of the New York-based Pain
Relief Network, which advocates high-dose opioid pain management -
said criminal charges like those levied against Hurwitz intimidate
doctors from prescribing adequate doses of pain medicine.

"You get guys like Hurwitz who are brave enough to do the right thing,
and this is what happens to them," she said.

Last year, in a similar case, prosecutors failed to get a conviction
against Cecil Knox, a Roanoke doctor accused of illegally prescribing
OxyContin and other drugs that resulted in seven patients' deaths. He
was acquitted on some charges and the jury deadlocked on others. 
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