An Alaska nurse practitioner and a doctor dubbed "the Candy Man" were charged Wednesday with providing millions of opioid doses to patients who did not medically require the drugs, which in turn fueled addiction and caused overdoses and deaths, officials said.
The Alaska U.S. attorney said 48-year-old Jessica Joyce Spayd and 74-year-old Lavern Davidhizar were arrested and charged separately for distributing the prescription painkillers. Federal prosecutors said the two medical professionals helped fuel the state’s opioid epidemic.
Spayd, an advanced nurse practitioner and owner of Eagle River Wellness in Eagle River, was charged with distribution of narcotic substances resulting in death. Davidhizar, a physician at Family Medical Clinic in Soldotna, was charged with distribution of a scheduled controlled substance.
Spayd allegedly distributed more than 4 million doses of opioid narcotics, including oxycodone, methadone, and hydromorphone, to 450 patients between 2014 and 2019. At least 19 of her patients "died within one month of filling an opioid prescription" she issued, according to court documents. Twelve died within two weeks and five died the same day or the next day.
The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) spotted signals -- including patients traveling long distances, prescriptions written before previous prescriptions expired, and patients using multiple names and pharmacies — that led them to Spayd, according to court documents. Some pharmacies in Anchorage stopped filling prescriptions written by Spayd, KTUU-TV of Anchorage reported.
Davidhizar prescribed so many narcotic pills he became known by drug users as "the Candy Man," authorities said. Court documents stated he prescribed more than 700,000 narcotic pills between 2017 and 2019, and "it was common knowledge that people could obtain pain medication prescriptions from him even though they did not have a legitimate medical need.”
Undercover FBI agents posed as patients with signs of opioid addiction but "little pain justifying the opioids they sought," court documents stated. Davidhizar still prescribed them the drugs.
Davidhizar was put on probation in 1999 for a two-year period and fined $5,000 for failing to keep medical records for prescriptions, KTUU reported. He was placed on probation again in 2009 for five years and fined $35,000 for overprescribing drugs and failing to show concern for patients’ wellbeing.
Spayd faces a minimum of 20 years in prison if convicted of the most serious charges, while Davidhizar faces a maximum of 20 years in prison.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.