An Alaska doctor and a nurse practitioner face federal charges of illegally distributing millions of opioid doses to patients that resulted in addiction, overdoses and deaths, officials said
Lavern Davidhizar, a 74-year-old physician at Family Medical Clinic in Soldotna prescribed so many opioids to patients that he came to be known as the ‘candy man,’ authorities said.
And advanced nurse practitioner Jessica Joyce, 48, who was operating a wellness clinic in Eagle River, is accused of prescribing 4 million doses of the highly addictive narcotics to 450 patients.
The medical professionals were arrested separately, and charged with providing opioids to patients who did not medically require them.
Authorities accused the pair of helping to fuel the state’s opioid epidemic.
Lavern Davidhizar, a 74-year-old physician at Family Medical Clinic in Soldotna, allegedly handed out prescriptions for so many narcotic pills he became known by drug users as ‘the Candy Man’
Advanced nurse practitioner Jessica Joyce, 48, who was operating a wellness clinic in Eagle River, is alleged to have distributed more than 4 million doses of opioid narcotics to 450 patients between 2014 and 2019, authorities said
Davidhizar was also charged with distribution of a scheduled controlled substance.
He is alleged to have written prescriptions for 700,000 narcotic pills between 2017 and 2019, and ‘was well known in the drug abuser community on the Kenai Peninsula,’ a criminal affidavit said.
Davidhizar faces a maximum of 20 years in prison, if convicted.
Spayd was charged with distribution of narcotic substances resulting in death.
At least 19 of Spayd’s patients ‘died within one month of filling an opioid prescription’ issued by her. Twelve died within two weeks and five died the same day or the next day, according to a criminal affidavit signed against her.
Spayd faces a stiffer charge requiring she serve a minimum of 20 years in prison, if convicted of the most serious charges she faces.
Davidhizar, the so-called ‘Candy Man’, and his excessive prescribing practices had already put him on the Alaska Medical Board’s radar for 20 years, reports the Anchorage Daily News.
The board slapped Davidhizar with a reprimand in 1999 for allegedly writing 13 prescriptions, including some narcotics, to a patient over a period of months without keeping any medical records. The infraction resulted in two years probation and a $5,000 fine, the Anchorage Daily News reports.
Three separate allegations were also made over several years that accused the doctor of over-prescribing pain medications that resulted in ‘controlled substance addiction.’ He also was accused of failing to appropriately track prescriptions.
Davidhizar’s license was placed on probation for five years, while he was mandated to maintain safeguards, including random monitoring of pain management patient records.
The description on a 2011 YouTube video says Davidhizar is an ‘osteopathic physician treating patients for a variety of injuries and pain.’ Osteopathic medicine ’emphasizes the interrelated unity of all systems in the body, each working with the other to heal in times of illness,’ according to Osteopathic.org.
However, Davidhizar, who inteviewed about his practice in the video, mentions that he also specializes in treating pain.
‘We do pain intervention with injections to help reduce people’s pain so they don’t have to take pain pills and try to get them back to work again. So we pretty much do everything. We’re sort of the last frontier here,’ he says in the video.
Federal investigators, however, claimed he was also illegally prescribing opioid pills when they zeroed in on the physician, earlier this year.
Acting on a tip from street-level drug users about Davidhizar’s alleged prescribing, FBI agents posed as patients with signs of opioid addiction but ‘little pain justifying the opioids they sought,’ the affidavit says.
Davidhizar still handed out prescriptions for opioids to the undercover officers, according to the affidavit.
One agent had even claimed to the doctor that he had driven more than three hours to visit his clinic, and that he took Oxycodone for headaches, including some that were given to him by a relative.
The website for Spayd’s wellness practice (pictured above) says it was ‘closed until further notice’
Spayd is alleged to have distributed more than 4 million doses of opioid narcotics to 450 patients between 2014 and 2019, authorities said.
The website for her wellness practice says it was ‘closed until further notice.’
The medical professionals helped fuel the state’s opioid epidemic, prosecutors said.
US Drug Enforcement Administration officials said they were drawn to Spayd after they noticed patients traveling long distances to get to her practice.
She also was allegedly wrote prescriptions before previous prescriptions expired, and had patients that used multiple names and pharmacies, according to a criminal affidavit.
Spayd’s clinic had advertised itself as an addiction treatment facility, specializing in the use of ‘Suboxone,’ the affidavit said. Suboxone is a medication that can be used to treat opioid addiction.
However, she is alleged to have prescribed 40 other drugs, mostly narcotics, more than Suboxone, the affidavit said.
A review of Spayd’s history of prescribing opioids found that of all the patients Spayd saw from 2014 to 2019, some 89% were given opioid prescriptions, the Anchorage Daily News reported.