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Prosecutors: Tennessee grandmother is a drug dealer

There are two sides to every story. So it is in the case the owner of pain management clinics in East Tennessee. On one side of the story is the 53-year-old grandmother who owned and ran the clinics in a style she concedes was demanding.

On the other side of the story are federal prosecutors who say the owner essentially ran the pain clinics as drug trafficking operations in which addicts could pay for opioid prescriptions. Prosecutors say the prescriptions had two purposes: to give addicts easy access to powerful pain-killers and to make big profits for the owner and her partners.

The clinic owner’s defense attorney points out that Sylvia Hofstetter and her partners set up pain clinics according to Tennessee law. The facilities were approved by the state’s Department of Health and were required by law to prescribe opiates to patients who insisted on being prescribed medications for pain management.

As with all for-profit ventures, the clinics needed to make money to survive, the defense attorney recently told the jury in the case. “In order to be profitable, you have to keep people coming in,” the lawyer pointed out. “Her role was to try to keep this business profitable.”

He also argued that the doctor-patient relationship is built on trust and that physicians must assume that patients are being truthful about their conditions. Because the patients were being treated for chronic pain, they were prescribed medications to manage that pain.

A federal prosecutor argues that the clinic owner and her partners know how to game the system ad that they were in business purely to illegally sell opioid prescriptions.

“They wrote prescriptions for massive amounts of opiates,” the prosecutor told the jury. “These customers were not receiving medical treatment at these clinics.”

The trial is expected to stretch out over the next few weeks with both sides presenting their version of events. As always in drug trafficking cases, freedom and more is on the line.

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