A Georgia psychiatrist was arrested after 36 of his patients died, at least 12 of whom died from drug overdoses, WSBT-TV in Atlanta is reporting.
Doctor Narendra Nagareddy of Jonesboro was taken into custody on Thursday after agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) raided his office.
Clayton County Police Chief Mike Register told WSBT that the psychiatrist had been running what law enforcement calls a “Pill Mill” — that is, he over-prescribed prescription drugs to patients.
“He’s a psychiatrist in Jonesboro who has been overprescribing opiates and benzodiazepine and the last several years has had a multitude of overdoses and overdose deaths.”
He also allegedly prescribed prescription narcotics — drugs a psychiatrist wouldn’t ordinarily prescribe — which some patients overdosed on, according to Clayton County District Attorney Tracy Graham Lawson.
“He’s charged with prescribing pain medication which is outside his profession as a psychiatrist and not for a legitimate purpose for the patient.”
According to court documents, 36 of the psychiatrist’s patients died while on prescription drugs prescribed by Dr. Nagareddy. Twelve of them died specifically of “prescription drug intoxication” — that is, overdosing.
“Former and current patients have admitted to obtaining controlled substance prescriptions from Dr. Nagareddy without having a legitimate medical need.”
According to a September, 2015, report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), prescription drug abuse is an “epidemic.” The report notes that the number of prescription painkillers prescribed in the U.S. has quadrupled; over-prescribing doctors contribute to the problem by putting more drugs into the hands of abusers, or to those who would sell them on the street to abusers.
“More persons died from prescription drug overdoses in USA in 2014 than during any previous year on record.” – CDC pic.twitter.com/lid3R6mN5P
— SisterPress (@Ms_Danna) December 30, 2015
The biggest problem for drug enforcement is prescription opioids — powerful narcotic painkillers such as oxycodone (OxyContin) and hydrocodone (Vicodin). These painkillers are often prescribed to patients for pain management after surgery or an accident. Unfortunately, they can be powerfully addictive, and once a patient is hooked on them, recovery can be extremely difficult.
— Surescripts (@Surescripts) December 30, 2015
Other commonly over-prescribed medications include anti-anxiety medications such as benzodiazepines — something which the Georgia psychiatrist was known to over-prescribe.
For these reasons, the DEA is particularly concerned about so-called “Pill Mills” — that is, doctors (and practices) who prescribe narcotics without a legitimate prescription, or who over-prescribe too many pills to patients who legitimately need them.
“Pill Mills” are a particular concern in Kentucky, where entire communities have become addicted to prescription painkillers thanks to unscrupulous doctors. According to a report by Kentucky’s Department of Criminal Justice, these Pill Mills are a quick moneymaker for doctors who may be in trouble financially.
“When a doctor begins to see [patients], the drug seekers sometimes walk in with an old MRI scan and receive a cursory physical exam. In a matter of minutes, these doctors write prescriptions for large quantities of narcotics in exchange for an office fee which can range from $200 to $400.”
The problem of over-prescribing was so bad in the case of the Georgia psychiatrist, that the local police chief told a news reporter he was “Dr. Death.”
“People come to this person for help, and instead of getting help, they’re met with deadly consequences. If the allegations are true, he is Dr. Death, no doubt about it.”
In addition to taking the psychiatrist into custody and raiding his office, law enforcement officials also intend to search Dr. Nagareddy for any evidence.
As of this writing, a sign at the Georgia psychiatrist’s office tells patients to call a toll-free number if they need help with prescription drug addiction.
[Image courtesy of Clayton County Police via WAFF]