SAN DIEGO (CBS8) - An East County doctor accused of dispensing painkillers in exchange for sex on Tuesday pleaded not guilty in court. 

Prosecutors say Dr. Naga Thota also gave the drugs to patients without legitimate medical reasons. The state medical board has suspended Thota's license to practice medicine in California. 

During a several-year investigation, agents identified three alleged victims in the case, said Thomas Lenox, supervisory special agent with the DEA's Pharmaceutical Drug Task Force. Thota is accused of prescribing the women, ranging in age from early 20s to early 30s, various narcotics, including hydrocodone, methadone and oxycodone.

He allegedly went on to use the painkillers as "the carrot he held out" to his victims to coerce them into intimate relationships with him, according to Lenox. One of the women later moved on to heroin abuse, the DEA agent said.

Thota has been involved in two medical malpractice cases and one professional negligence case in the San Diego area, according to reports. 

RELATED COVERAGE