Stephen Schneider, whose Haysville clinic has been linked to 68 overdose deaths, testified Tuesday that he trusted his patients but realizes he was certain he was duped several times into mistakenly writing prescriptions for patients who were not truly in pain.
Schneider returned to the witness stand for his third day of testimony in his federal trial in Wichita. He and his wife, clinic manager Linda Schneider, are charged with unlawfully prescribing drugs, fraud and money laundering. If convicted, he faces up to life imprisonment.
Asked by his attorney why he decided to take the stand, Schneider replied, "I am innocent of these allegations, and I never wrote a prescription to any patient I didn't think the medication would be helpful to them."
Schneider told jurors that he trusted his patients when they talked to him about their situations.
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"I am certain I was duped several times," Schneider said.
Schneider said when he learned one of his patients was in the pharmacy parking lot selling prescription drugs she had just obtained, that patient was discharged from the clinic.
The defense submitted as evidence a photo of a towering rack of patient medical files showing numerous red charts that indicated patients who could no longer receive painkillers.
But under questioning from Assistant U.S. Attorney Tanya Treadway, Schneider said he couldn't remember some of his own testimony last week, in which he described a letter he purportedly wrote that noted one of his patients had been trading drugs in the lobby of his clinic.
"If I learned about patients selling pain medication, it was after the fact and they were not allowed further pain medication," Schneider said.
Schneider also testified that finding providers to care for Medicaid patients was difficult. That contention was bolstered by other doctors called to testify Tuesday on Schneider's behalf.
Greg Lakin, a family practice physician, testified that he moderated a 2005 meeting of the Sedgwick County Pain Society in which Schneider asked physicians to take some of his Medicaid patients. No one, including Lakin, responded.
"They have lot of no-shows," Lakin said of Medicaid patients. "They are some of the most demanding patients. There are a lot of different mood disorders; there is probably a higher-level misuse of drugs, poor education about drugs.
"It is just a very problematic population."
The Schneiders' arrests in December 2007 left more than 9,000 Schneider Medical Clinic patients without a doctor. The Sedgwick County medical society's office was "completely overwhelmed" with calls from his patients looking for a doctor who would take them, Lakin said.
"We had no answer," he said.
He reviewed on the stand the list of 320 area physicians that the government contends take Medicaid patients and said "maybe one" had taken some Schneider patients.
"I don't really see anybody I know for certain takes Medicaid and treats pain," he said.
Dan Alvarez, a Wichita cardiologist, testified that Schneider was one of the area's top five physicians giving him patient referrals for diagnostic testing and care. Alvarez told jurors he went to the Schneider clinic once a week to see patients.
Also testifying for Schneider was physician George Watson of Park City. He testified he didn't know of other area physicians who took Medicaid patients for pain management treatment.
"There isn't a doctor who has not been duped one time or another by someone who is a real good actor and presents the signs of clinical pain," Watson said.