Eagle River nurse practitioner charged in 3 opioid deaths as feds investigate nearly 20 more
The possible victim count in an investigation into an Eagle River nurse practitioner is so high, federal prosecutors filed a motion Tuesday asking the court to approve an alternative victim notification method.
The Drug Enforcement Administration arrested Jessica Spayd, 48, in October. Spayd is a licensed advanced nurse practitioner who specializes in pain management and addiction treatment, and owns an Eagle River clinic called Eagle River Wellness.
Law enforcement alleges that Spayd prescribed more than 4 million dosage units of oxycodone, methadone and hydromorphone between 2014 and 2019 to 450 different Alaskans. Some people traveled hundreds of miles from remote communities like Utqiagvik and King Salmon for their prescriptions, according to the release.
Spayd is charged with causing three overdose deaths by illegal prescribing, but according to Tuesday's filing, investigators are looking into nearly 20 other deaths in connection with her case.
The motion states:
"The indictment charges her with three overdose deaths caused by her illegal prescribing, and the government is investigating nearly twenty (20) additional deaths. Since 2014, the defendant has prescribed opioids to over 450 people, many of whom received large, potentially lethal dosages well above the CDC’s maximum recommended safe amounts. Although the government has contacted a small percentage of these victims, it has not yet been able to locate a large number of them. Additionally, the defendant has been prescribing these medications for upwards of eighteen (18) years, and the government has developed evidence that defendant’s illegal prescribing began well before 2014—the last year for which the government has detailed patient data. The government has been unable to identify the majority of these pre-2014 victims. In short, the government’s investigation to date has revealed at least hundreds, and potentially thousands of victims—including family members of deceased and addicted patients—directly harmed by defendant’s illegal conduct."
The large volume of possible victims makes it impracticable for the U.S. Attorney's Office to comply with traditional victim notification rules, according to the motion. Prosecutors would like to post public notifications about the case online.
Additionally, United States District Judge Ralph Beistline granted a motion by prosecutors to designate Spayd's case as complex, allowing for extra time to go through evidence and prepare discovery materials outside the confines of the Speedy Trial Act.
"The case contains voluminous records: approximately 109 boxes of hard-copy patient files and financial records that were seized in a recent search warrant, as well as thousands of pages of pharmacy data (PDMP information). The patient files and financial records need to be electronically scanned by hand, which will take significant time and resources. Further, three overdose deaths have been charged in the indictment and multiple other deaths are linked to the defendant. The discovery contains multiple gigabytes of information."
Spayd is currently facing three counts of distribution and dispensing of a controlled substance resulting in death and four counts of distribution and dispensing of a controlled substance.
At her arraignment, Spayd was seen shaking. She will be detained pending trial.
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