Oklahoma Doctor Charged With Murder After Five Patients Overdose

By Kelly Burch 06/28/17

The former pain management doctor gave out nearly 3 million prescriptions over the course of four years.

Close-up of a female doctor holding a bottle of pills.

An Oklahoma doctor has been charged with five counts of second-degree murder for allegedly overprescribing pills that contributed to the deaths of 10 of her patients over four years. She has been charged in connection with five of those deaths.

“Each one of the individuals was prescribed an excessive amount of medication the same months of their deaths which were all the result of multi-drug toxicity, according to the Oklahoma Examiner’s reports," said Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter, according to KFOR News

Dr. Regan Nichols, 57, a pain management doctor, was arrested last week and released on $50,000 bail. Authorities say that she was prescribing too many pills, writing prescriptions for nearly 3 million pills over the course of four years. She was also prescribing combinations of pills that are particularly dangerous. 

In three of the deaths, the victim was given "a deadly three-drug combination of narcotic opioid pain reliever, an anti-anxiety drug and a muscle relaxer," Hunter said.

One particularly egregious case was that of 55-year-old Sheila Bartels, who picked up 510 pills prescribed by Nichols in one day, including the painkiller hydrocodone, the anti-anxiety medication Xanax and a muscle relaxant called Soma. Bartels was found dead later that day. According to a Washington Post report, investigators said that Nichols “either didn't know or didn't care what she was doing.”

The deaths that Nichols is charged with were all of women, between the ages of 21 and 55 who overdosed on narcotics that the doctors prescribed them. 

"Dr. Nichols violated this honored, very sacred oath in her actions over the last number of years and it is the intention of our office to hold her accountable for her actions," Hunter said.

A former patient of Nichols called the arrest “a relief.” Martina Troy told KFOR News that she became addicted to opioid pills while under Nichols’ care, and eventually became so concerned about the doctor’s actions that she went to the authorities. 

Troy, 56, was being treated for fibromyalgia and hip pain, but quickly became addicted. 

"It’s like running on a treadmill and you can’t get off. It’s the worst feeling, you can’t run out of medication. I had times I almost wrecked my car getting back to her office to get a prescription," she said. "I had a couple times I woke up gasping for breath and slobbering and I knew I was very lucky that I hadn’t died."

The stories of patients like Troy show just how dangerous Nichols’ actions were. 

“Nichols prescribed patients, who entrusted their well-being to her, a horrifyingly excessive amount of opioid medications,” Hunter said. “Nichols’s blatant disregard for the lives of her patients is unconscionable.”

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Kelly Burch writes about addiction and mental health issues, particularly as they affect families. Follow her on TwitterFacebook, and LinkedIn.