A doctor located in Alaska wrote over 20,000 opioid prescriptions in six years. 64-year-old David Chisholm pleaded guilty last June to unlawful dispensing and distributing a controlled substance. He has now been sentenced to nearly three years in prison. After that, he will spend 34 months in jail. He can no longer practice medicine in the State of Alaska. He will also be required to pay $25,000 in restitution.
The illegally prescribed opioids, prosecutors said, resulted in the deaths of five patients.
Illegally Prescribing Potent Opioids
Chisholm is accused of operating a “pill mill” of sorts when he illegally prescribed patients thousands of opioid pills out of his private practice, Camelot Family Health Clinic in Wasilla, Alaska. As a result, people could go to him to get a variety of opioids, including oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine, and fentanyl.
Wasilla is a town with just over ten thousand residents, according to the 2019 census. Yet, in just over five years, Chisholm’s practice managed to prescribe over 20,500 prescriptions, enough for every member of the town – babies included — to have been prescribed opioids twice.
He would often prescribe dangerous combinations for some of his patients, increasing the likelihood of drug interactions or overdoses. As a doctor, he should have known better, and the state of Alaska launched an investigation into him after a spate of overdose deaths. In his plea deal, he took responsibility for the overdoses of his patients and made a public apology.
He kept shoddy records and, unlike many doctors who work with chronic pain, did not create pain management plans for his patients.
Holding Dr. Chisholm Accountable
Walmart was the first entity to notify the FDA of the doctor’s unusual prescribing habits. As his prescriptions began to be flagged as excessive in the system, the doctor began to alternate his patients’ names. Walmart refused to fill the pill scripts and reported his behavior. Meanwhile, he told his patients to go elsewhere to get their opioids prescribed.
“Dr. Chisholm’s reckless conduct reflects a shocking disregard for the welfare of his patients,” U.S. Attorney John E. Kuhn Jr. of the District of Alaska said in a statement. “Nothing can excuse his opioid prescribing practices in light of what is today universally understood about the risks of opioid use disorder and opioid overdose.”