Ark. doc charged in bombing pleaded for Rx rights

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (AP) — A doctor accused of setting off a bomb that severely wounded the head of the state medical board had pleaded with the panel to reinstate his permit to prescribe narcotics, saying he was unfairly targeted and that his life and business had gone downhill as a result of their decision.

Dr. Randeep Mann’s correspondence with the Arkansas State Medical Board reveals a physician who believed he was unfairly blamed for the deaths of 10 patients who overdosed after “mishandling prescriptions” for powerful painkillers.

“As a physician, all I have always wanted to do was to help a fellow human in need and not to cause further harm,” Mann wrote to the board in 2007.

But Jim Moss, a pharmacist who investigated Mann and others for the medical board, said Thursday the doctor employed questionable business practices and attracted an unusually high number of complaints.

“It’s the most investigations I’ve done on a single doctor,” Moss said.

Prosecutors say Mann’s repeated run-ins with the state board led him to detonate a bomb in the driveway of its chairman, Dr. Trent Pierce, last February. The blast left Pierce with severe burns and caused him to lose his left eye.

Mann was charged Wednesday with using a weapon of mass destruction in a bombing and other federal charges that could land him in prison for life if he’s convicted. He is in federal custody and his attorney, Blake Hendrix, did not return a call for comment Thursday. Mann is scheduled to be arraigned Jan. 21 in federal court in Little Rock.

In letters to the state medical board after it stripped him of his permit to prescribe narcotics in 2006, Mann portrayed himself as a tireless worker who had “devoted his whole life to medicine.”

“This has not only involved my professional life, but my personal life as well,” he wrote in 2007. “To be working less than a full schedule has been the hardest feat for me to endure since my graduation from medical school in December of 1980.”

In one letter, Mann asked why other doctors whose patients had died of overdosing on prescription drugs weren’t punished.

“To blame the physicians for what the patients chose to do is simply unjust,” he wrote.

And in 2008, Mann — a U.S. citizen from India — sued the board claiming it discriminated against him because of his race and religion. A judge threw out that lawsuit and another he filed against the board.

But Moss said his investigations showed Mann had been prescribing large doses of methadone to known drug addicts, when they should only receive a single dose each day.

“That’s like giving an alcoholic a bottle of whiskey and telling him to just take a single shot every day,” Moss told The Associated Press.

Mann’s patients would drive from as far as 80 miles away to his clinic in Russellville to get painkiller prescriptions, said Moss, who retired three years ago.

The state medical board found that Mann prescribed excessive amounts — 15 to 26 bottles per month — of the pain reliever butorphanol for one patient. Along with the 10 patients who died, several survived overdoses, including one who suffered brain injury.

During the 2006 board hearing, Mann testified that in some cases, he didn’t know patients had overdosed — and continued to prescribe narcotic pain relievers — because he hadn’t received records from a hospital’s emergency room that would have reflected the overdoses.

In other cases, he said, patients overdosed on medications prescribed by other doctors, or cases were mischaracterized by the hospital as overdoses.

In addition to the charges announced Wednesday, Mann has pleaded not guilty to earlier charges of obstruction of justice and possessing unregistered weapons after more than $1 million worth of weapons were found during a search of his home and surrounding area that followed the grenades discovery by the city workers. He is scheduled to stand trial on those charges March 15.

His wife, Sangeeta Mann, is charged with obstructing the investigation, concealing signed, blank checks and making false statements to a grand jury. If convicted of obstruction, she could face up to 20 years in prison.