Alaska nurse practitioner, doctor arrested for mis-prescribing opioids

Authorities say the opioid abuse epidemic in Tennessee. / (MGN)
Authorities say the opioid abuse epidemic in Tennessee. / (MGN)(WVLT)
Published: Oct. 9, 2019 at 11:00 AM AKDT
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A doctor in Soldotna and a nurse practitioner in Eagle River have been arrested on charges of misprescribing opioids.

Dr. Lavern Davidhizar, the owner of the Family Medical Clinic in Soldotna, prescribed 719,847 narcotic pills from 2017 until 2019, according to charging documents filed in federal court.

The complaint says that Davidhizar, 74, prescribed opioids to undercover agents who acted like addicts during patient visits. It also revealed that in interviews with street users, the users referred to Davidhizar as the "Candy Man." The documents say that this was because "it was common knowledge that people could obtain pain medication prescriptions from him even though they did not have a legitimate medical need."

Davidhizar has a previous record of medical misconduct. In 1999, he was put on probation for two years and fined $5,000 for failing to maintain medical records for prescriptions.

In 2009, he was put on probation for a five-year period and fined $35,000 for over-prescribing medications and showing a lack of concern for patients, among other things.

The nurse practitioner, Jessica Joyce Spayd of Anchorage, owns Eagle River Wellness in Eagle River. She was charged with illegally distributing oxycodone, methadone, and hydromorphone.

The complaint ties Spayd's prescription-writing habits to 19 deaths that occurred within a month of Spayd's prescription being filled. Five of those deaths occurred in one day. The complaint says that the prescriptions written by Spayd were a "significant contributing factor in the patients' deaths" for two of the patients who were more thoroughly investigated.

Signs hang in the window of Eagle River Wellness clinic after a DEA raid on Tuesday.

According to the criminal complaint, approximately 79 percent of Spayd's prescriptions were for narcotic opioids, equaling about four million dosage units written to 453 unique patients in the time period from January 2014 to July of 2019.

Patients allegedly traveled from Fairbanks, North Pole, Utqiagvik, Prudhoe Bay, and King Salmon in order to get prescriptions from the clinic, which billed itself as an addiction treatment clinic. In some cases, patients themselves admitted that they were not experiencing pain, but were nonetheless prescribed opioids. She allegedly also used slang terms for drugs she was prescribing when speaking with patients.

According to court documents, some pharmacies around the state and as far as Fairbanks stopped filling Spayd's prescriptions. The complaint also alleges that Spayd ranked in the top .1% of doctors among 170,000 physicians nationwide for the average number of days that patients were prescribed opioids.

Spayd also allegedly violated a American Medical Association ethics rule by residing with a patient for whom she was prescribing medications. The criminal complaint says that Spayd lived with someone named as Patient One for nearly two years in an apartment in Anchorage.

This is a developing story.
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