Alaska doctor known as the 'candy man' and nurse practitioner charged with distributing millions of opioids

A doctor charged in Alaska with illegally distributing opioids was known among drug abusers as the "Candy Man," prosecutors said. (Moussa81)

An Alaska doctor and an advanced nurse practitioner were arrested Wednesday and charged with illegally distributing millions of opioids.

The two health professionals, who owned medical clinics in Alaska, were charged separately, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Alaska.

Lavern Davidhizar, D.O., 74, who owns and practices at Family Medical Clinic in Soldotna, was charged with illegally distributing controlled substances outside the course of professional practice. He prescribed so many opioids he became known as the “Candy Man,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Jessica Joyce Spayd, 48, of Anchorage, an advanced nurse practitioner who owns the Eagle River Wellness medical clinic in Eagle River, was charged with illegally distributing oxycodone, methadone and hydromorphine. Spayd, who specializes in pain management and addiction treatment, prescribed over 4 million doses of opioids between 2014 and 2019 to just 450 patients, resulting in the deaths of two people, according to a criminal complaint. Many of those patients traveled hundreds of miles from remote locations to obtain prescriptions, the Alaska U.S. attorney said.

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Between 2017 and 2019, Davidhizar prescribed more than 700,000 narcotic pills, including hydrocodone, oxycodone, morphine, methadone and tramadol, according to a criminal affidavit. Drug abusers on the Kenai Peninsula referred to Davidhizar as the “Candy Man” because it was common knowledge that people could obtain pain medication prescriptions from him even though they did not have a legitimate medical need, the U.S. Attorney’s office said.

Spayd faces a mandatory minimum of 20 years to life in federal prison if convicted of the most serious charges alleged in the complaint. If convicted, Davidhizar faces a maximum of 20 years imprisonment. 

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“Together with our partners in law enforcement, we are committed to prosecuting the illegal distribution of controlled substances, whether the crimes are committed by medical professionals or street dealers. The end result of their activities is the same: the creation of addicts, crime and, sometimes, death,” U.A. Attorney Bryan Schroder said in response to the arrests.