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LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Two Los Angeles doctors used multiple fake names to funnel "powerful addictive medications" to Anna Nicole Smith, prosecutors said on Wednesday at the opening of a trial into the Playboy model's sudden death three years after it occurred.
Prosecutors also alleged that Smith's lawyer and one-time boyfriend, Howard K. Stern, helped keep the buxom blonde actress over-medicated, calling various doctors to obtain painkillers and other drugs, and sometimes administering them.
Smith, a fashion model and TV actress famous for marrying an 89-year-old oil billionaire, died in Florida from an accidental prescription drug overdose in February 2007 at the age of 39.
The two doctors and Stern are not charged with causing Smith's death, but are charged with unlawfully prescribing and giving controlled substances to an addict for three years.
Stern, and doctors Khristine Eroshevich and Sandeep Kapoor, have all pleaded not guilty. They could face more than five years in prison if convicted.
Prosecutor Renee Rose told a jury at Los Angeles Superior Court that Stern and Kapoor put Smith back on the same level of medication even after she had emerged from a 2006 detox plan while pregnant with her daughter Danielynn.
But lawyers for Stern said Smith was not an addict but had dealt with chronic pain since 2000, and that she used other names to keep her medical issues private from the media.
"He (Stern) cared for her, he cherished her, he loved her," said Stern's defense lawyer Steven Sadow. "He relied in good faith on the medical judgment of doctors."
Eroshevich, a psychiatrist who at one time lived next door to Smith, flew to the Bahamas on several occasions to deliver muscle relaxants, anti-anxiety, sleep aids and anti-depressants, prosecutor Rose said.
But a lawyer for Eroshevich said she was "not a pill-mill" and that the prescriptions she wrote were not illegal.
Kapoor's attorney said there was a legitimate medical purpose for the drugs Kapoor prescribed.
Stern, Kapoor and Eroshevich were charged after a criminal investigation ordered by California Attorney General Jerry Brown, who has vowed to crack down on prescription drug abuse in the state.
Brown has ordered probes into the drug-related deaths of more than 200 people in recent years. His officials also helped with the investigation of Michael Jackson's death last year which led to involuntary manslaughter charges against the singer's personal physician, Dr. Conrad Murray.
The trial of Anna Nicole Smith's two doctors and Stern is expected to last several weeks.
Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte