Eagle River woman convicted on federal offenses for illegal opioid distribution

Published: Oct. 28, 2022 at 6:19 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - An Eagle River nurse practitioner has been convicted on 10 felony counts after prescribing approximately 4.5 million opioids without adequate medical justification, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Alaska.

In a press release, the U.S. Attorney’s Office detailed the conviction of 51-year-old Jessica Spayd, who ran Eagle River Pain and Wellness until she was originally indicted in 2019.

“She prescribed nearly 4.5 million opioids between January 2014 and October 2019 causing addiction, suffering and death,” the release said. “She did so with little to no medical justification or treatment plan; minimal, if any, tests or physical examinations; and little if any considerations of non-opioid treatment.”

Spayd has been convicted on five counts of distribution of a controlled substance resulting in death, four counts of distribution and dispensing of a controlled substance, and one count of maintaining a drug-involved premises. The release said that Spayd faces a minimum of 20 years to life in federal prison — without the possibility of parole — for the most serious charges. A federal district court judge will determine Spayd’s sentence.

“For years, dozens of pharmacists throughout Alaska told the defendant to stop the dangerous prescribing and to lower the dosages for her patients,” the release said. “Emergency room doctors who treated her patients for opioid overdoses told her to stop. Insurance companies sent thousands of letters telling her to stop. Concerned family members of her patients pleaded with her to stop. Her prescribing was so far outside the normal course of medical practice that multiple major pharmacy chains like Walmart and Safeway, and the Chief of Pharmacy at Joint Base Elmendorf, enacted unprecedented policies refusing to fill her narcotic prescriptions.”

The release says that prescriptions written by Spayd were between five and 15 times higher than the maximum safe daily dosage in state and federal guidelines. The release said that Spayd would pre-date and pre-sign prescriptions while she was out of the office, and directed non-medical staff to provide these prescriptions to patients for cash sums.

A Drug Enforcement Administration agent posed as an opioid addict without pain symptoms between May and June of 2019. Spayd prescribed the undercover DEA agent nearly 200 opioid pills over three appointments for cash payments.

“She specifically acknowledged in a recorded conversation with an undercover agent that what she was doing was a felony and she could go to jail,” the release said.

Additionally, the release said that Spayd illegally prescribed nearly 5,000 opioid pills to her ex-boyfriend who was living with her at the time. The release said that Spayd’s live-in ex-boyfriend was addicted to opioids and that Spayd would provide him with pills using prescriptions written for other people, often creating fake appointment records.

The release said that the DEA and FBI led the investigation, and were assisted by the North Slope Borough Police Department, the Alaska Health Care Fraud Task Force, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services-Office of the Inspector General, the IRS, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management-Office of Law Enforcement and Security, the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, Alaska Park Rangers, the Alaska State Troopers, the Anchorage Police Department, Alaska Medicaid Fraud Control Unit and the State of Alaska Division of Insurance.