Clayton County psychiatrist linked to 36 deaths breaks silence

Narendra Nagareddy (Source: Clayton County)

A Jonesboro psychiatrist linked to 36 patient deaths is breaking his silence. Investigators said Doctor Narendra Nagareddy regularly over-prescribed prescription medication for no legitimate reason. Police said at least 12 of the patients that have died have been because of an overdose. CBS46 tracked down Doctor Nagareddy to a home in Henry County.

When a reporter asked Nagareddy if he had been running a pill mill, he said "No sir! Not at all!" When asked why he wouldn't explain further, he said "Please, sir, let me talk to my lawyer."

CBS46 has made repeated attempts to interview an attorney representing Nagareddy. Attorney Stephen Frey has yet to respond to requests for comment, but did text a reporter to stay off of his client's property.

"I'm explaining to you, sir, I'm an honest man," Nagareddy told a reporter from behind the door. "I look after all the severely mentally ill patients, please understand, sir."

But court records obtained by CBS46 allege the doctor was not properly taking care of his patients at his Jonesboro office. A search warrant shows investigators used surveillance evidence and undercover operations to dig deep into the alleged pill mill run at Psychiatry Associates of South Atlanta. Records allege "Dr. Nagareddy has regularly prescribed excessive amounts of controlled substances for no legitimate medical purpose, resulting in the abuse and diversion of the prescribed controlled substances."

Records also alleged patients have received medication "without presenting previous medical records, MRI's, x-rays, or prescription records."

Despite being a licensed medical doctor in the field of psychiatry, investigators wrote in their report he "routinely prescribed narcotic controlled substances for pain, which is outside of the normal course of his practice."

CBS46 tracked down several families of the deceased patients named in the 43 page search warrant. Several families decided to break their silence for the first time.

"I think these patients had an addiction," Michael Robinson told CBS46. Robinson's father, David, died of a confirmed overdose in January, 2015. "I think Doctor Nagareddy enabled their addiction."

Robinson said he found his father's lifeless body at his home one afternoon. Records allege the family told investigators David Robinson had struggled with a history of prescription drug abuse, yet according to the search warrant, he routinely received medication. In fact, according to court filings, Robinson received at least 24 re-fills in a 13 month span, including a bottle of 90 anxiety pills just four days before he was found dead.

"If he weren't prescribed all those meds," Michael Robinson said, "then he'd still be alive today."

"It was so egregious," Clayton County's Police Chief Michael Register said, "you really had to try to absorb the information being given to us. Instead of receiving help, it appears some of them were receiving a death sentence."

Chief Register help oversee Nagareddy's arrest in January of this year. The DEA had been investigating for months prior.

"Of course Clayton County is a better place now that Doctor Nagareddy is off the streets," Register said.

Nagareddy's arrest is the latest bust in a statewide crackdown on so-called "pill mills;" clinics where patients allege they have easy access to prescription medication, not because they need it, but because they want it.

CBS46 sat down with Attorney General Sam Olens, who helped fight for tougher legislation three years ago. The new law requires all pain clinics to be licensed with the state. They must also be owned by doctors or hospitals and no employee can have a criminal record. Olens said the law is working, but families across Metro Atlanta are still being plagued.

When asked by a reporter how many suspected pill mills his office was investigating, Olens replied, "candidly that is not public information. I will tell you that it's less than it was after the passage of the pill mill bill."

But defense attorneys warn of a legal "grey zone," where doctors are protected to a certain degree.

"The law doesn't say a doctor has to stop prescribing medicine just because someone has a drug problem," attorney Page Pate told CBS46. Pate has defended several doctors linked to alleged pill mills before and has won many cases.

"They either have to show that the doctor intentionally killed the patient," Pate said of Nagareddy's case, "or they need to show that the doctor's writing of the prescriptions was so reckless, so negligent, that it was foreseeable that it would lead to someone's death."

A CBS46 investigation into Nagareddy revealed a clean record with the state medical board. Several of the 36 families listed in the state's case against him are now left asking how this could have happened. They also are struggling with what proper justice would be.

CBS46 reached out to the District Attorney for comment on this story. We will update the story when we hear back.

Copyright 2016 WGCL-TV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.


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