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OxyContin Jury Begins Deliberating

February 19, 2002

MILTON, Fla. (AP) _ A jury began deliberating Tuesday in the manslaughter case against a doctor accused in the OxyContin overdose deaths of four patients.

Dr. James Graves, who was Florida’s top prescriber of the powerful painkiller before his arrest, is accused of indiscriminately dispensing the drug to addicts and dealers for profit.

He is believed to be the nation’s first doctor to stand trial on manslaughter or murder charges in the OxyContin death of a patient.

If convicted on all charges, he could get up to 30 years in prison.

Prosecutor Russell Edgar estimated that Graves, who testified he had up to 1,000 patients at his pain management offices in Pace and Brewton, Ala., brought in $500,000 a year.

``The defendant in effect put people in a chemical straitjacket,″ Edgar said Tuesday. ``It was to his financial benefit to do so and ... also it served his ego.″

Graves, 55, had testified that he did not know his patients were abusing drugs and said no one would have died if OxyContin had been taken as prescribed.

``OxyContin is a good drug if it is taken properly,″ said defense attorney H.E. Ellis Jr. ``Pharmacy companies don’t spend billions of dollars developing drugs if they are going to kill people.″

Prosecutors said money rolled in as patients, most paying cash, returned repeatedly to feed their addictions.

``Word spread that he was the go-to doctor,″ Edgar said Monday. ``He’s no different than a drug dealer.″

Ellis admitted that Graves’ record keeping was poor but said jurors would find evidence of a doctor practicing medicine, not indiscriminately prescribing drugs.

OxyContin is a synthetic opiate. Addicts get a heroin-like high by chewing the pills or crushing them and then injecting the drug.

Two dozen pharmacists testified they stopped filling what they called ``Graves cocktails″ that included Lortab, another painkiller, the tranquilizer Xanax and the muscle relaxant Soma besides OxyContin.

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