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Florida Oxycontin Case Begins

Jan 14, 2002 | AP

A doctor whose prescriptions of the potent painkiller OxyContin led to the overdose deaths of four patients went on trial on manslaughter charges Monday.

James Graves, who also faces charges of racketeering for allegedly providing thousands of pills to known drug dealers, is one of the first doctors in the country to be tried on charges that his OxyContin prescriptions resulted in death.

Medical and insurance records show Graves prescribed more OxyContin than any other doctor in Florida.

Graves, 54, could get up to 30 years in prison.

Graves, a pain control specialist from the Pensacola area, was arrested in 2000 after complaints from family members of dead patients and from pharmacists, some of whom stopped filling his prescriptions because they considered them excessive. Four of Graves' patients died from OxyContin overdoses between November 1999 and June 2000.

Graves ``didn't practice medicine in a scientific or medical manner,'' prosecutor Russell Edgar said last month.

Defense attorneys said that some of Graves' patients lied to him about their symptoms to get OxyContin prescriptions and that Graves treated patients the best way he knew how.

``It's what doctors do - prescribe drugs,'' Graves blurted out during a hearing in July.

OxyContin is a slow-release narcotic that is widely prescribed for victims of moderate to severe chronic pain. One pill is designed to last 12 hours, but those who abuse OxyContin usually crush the medicine and then snort or inject it, producing a quick, heroin-like high.

Federal officials blame OxyContin and similar morphine-like drugs for hundreds of deaths nationwide over the past two years.

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