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Pain Doctor in Virginia Sentenced to Five Years Imprisonment

A pain-management doctor who prescribed huge quantity of opiates to patients at his northern Virginia clinic was sentenced Friday to nearly five years in prison on federal drug charges.

Thats more time than his supporters and some of the jurors were hoping for, but its still a major victory for him and for the scientists who testified at the trial. The prosecutors had asked for a life sentence. Prosecutors argued that Hurwitz reaped hundreds of thousands of dollars from an illegitimate medical practice.

The sentence is a distinct reduction from the 25-year sentence Dr. Hurwitz was serving after being convicted in 2004 on drug trafficking and other charges. (The conviction was overturned and resulted in a retrial, at which he was convicted of 16 counts of drug trafficking.) One of Dr. Hurwitzs lawyers, Richard Sauber, said that, considering the time already served, Dr. Hurwitz could be free in 17 months.

Authorities claimed Hurwitz crossed the line from doctor to illegitimate medical practice .

U.S. District Judge Leonie Brinkema faulted Hurwitz for ignoring clear signals that some of his patients were obvious drug dealers or abusers, but she also credited him with saving lives with his willingness to prescribe the drugs to patients with debilitating pain.

The judge defended the bulk of Hurwitz's practice as legitimate medicine that saved patients' lives. She said medical literature has increasingly come to support Hurwitz's theories about the propriety of massive drug doses for patients in chronic pain.

William E. Hurwitzs 61, pain-management clinic in a suburb of Washington, D.C., drew patients from across the country. Hurwitz was one of the most outspoken doctors in the United States advocating liberal use of opiates for pain treatment, once appearing on television talk show to tout his views. He said many doctors under treat pain because they ignore patient complaints or they are fearful
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