"Pill mill" psychiatrist Nathan Kuemmerle pleads guilty to prescription drug charge

January 28, 2011

A West Hollywood psychiatrist who operated a "pill mill," in which thousands of prescriptions for addictive drugs were written for cash, pleaded guilty today to a single charge of distribution of a controlled substance.

Upon entering his plea, Dr. Nathan Kuemmerle, 38, of Hollywood, told U.S. District Judge Dolly M. Gee that he had recently completed treatment for drug addiction.

Gee set an April 18 sentencing date for Kuemmerle, who faces a potential penalty of up to five years in federal prison, a fine of $250,000 and three years of supervised release, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Kuemmerle was arrested last April at his home by U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents and Redondo Beach police.

Kuemmerle's office manager, Antonie "Tony" Phillips, 29, of Koreatown, was arrested the same day at the doctor's clinic on Santa Monica Boulevard, and has since pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge, according to Thom Mrozek of the U.S. Attorney's Office.

The investigation began in 2009, when Redondo Beach police arrested an individual who offered Adderall for sale on the Craigslist website, Mrozek said.

That person fingered Kuemmerle as the 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 there was  "overwhelming evidence that Dr. Kuemmerle is running a quintessential 'pill mill,' according to an affidavit filed in support of the criminal complaint.

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).

Sources: "WeHo psychiatrist pleads guilty to illegal distribution of prescription drugs," Beverly Hills Courier, January 27, 2011.


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