A West Hollywood psychiatrist pleaded not guilty Monday to operating a "pill mill," in which thousands of prescriptions for addictive drugs were allegedly written for cash.
Dr. Nathan Kuemmerle, 37, of Hollywood, entered his plea in U.S. District Court in downtown Los Angeles to conspiracy to distribute controlled substances -- a charge that carries a penalty of up to 20 years in federal prison, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.
Kuemmerle was arrested April 13 at his home by U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents and Redondo Beach police.
Kuemmerle's office manager, Antonie "Tony" Phillips, 28, of Koreatown, was arrested the same day at the doctor's clinic on Santa Monica Boulevard, and is also charged with conspiracy, according to Thom Mrozek of the U.S. Attorney's Office.
The investigation began last summer, when Redondo Beach police arrested an individual who allegedly offered Adderall for sale on the Craigslist website, Mrozek said.
That person fingered Kuemmerle as the alleged source of the Adderall, claiming the psychiatrist wrote prescriptions on numerous occasions without any medical examination, and that he would write prescriptions for various names during a single visit, according to Mrozek.
After analyzing Kuemmerle's prescribing history and reviewing secret tapes made at the clinic, San Diego-based psychiatrist Dr. Steven Ornish concluded that "there is overwhelming evidence that Dr. Kuemmerle is running a quintessential 'pill mill,"' according to an affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint.
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The affidavit in which Ornish's report is summarized states that during 2009, Kuemmerle wrote more prescriptions for the largest available dosage of amphetamine salts -- the generic name for Adderall -- than any other doctor in California, and that he wrote 3 1/2 times more amphetamine salts prescriptions than the No. 2 two prescriber of the drug.
According to the affidavit, Kuemmerle was found to be the state's second-largest prescriber of all Schedule II drugs, which also include oxycodone (OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin and Norco) and alprazolam (Xanax).
At an earlier hearing, the doctor was ordered detained pending trial. A status conference is set in the case for May 10, Mrozek said.
Phillips was released on a $50,000 bond, with arraignment set for next Monday, Mrozek said.