'Serial killer with a poison pen' gets 30-year federal sentence for overprescribing opioids, killing 5 

A former nurse practitioner in Eagle River, Alaska, was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison after being convicted of overprescribing millions of opioid painkillers to about 450 patients, including five who died, according to a June 15 Anchorage Daily News report.

Jessica Spayd, 52, the former owner of Eagle River Wellness, advertised her business as an addiction treatment facility where opioid abusers could get access to Suboxone, a medication that can help patients kick their drug habit.

Instead, according to the sworn affidavit written by the Drug Enforcement Administration used to secure her initial arrest, she wrote prescriptions for close to 40 different drugs — almost all narcotics — far more than she prescribed Suboxone, the report said.

Prosecutors believe the prescriptions she wrote "contributed to 20 confirmed deaths" and that her actions are "suspected to be a factor in dozens of others," the report said. Further, when she was first arrested and charged with the five deaths in 2019, authorities found a list she had been keeping of her patients who died between 2004 to 2011 and "classified five of those deaths as overdoses," Assistant U.S. Attorney Ryan Tansey said during the sentencing hearing. 

Investigators have used the list to uncover additional overdose deaths, which Ms. Spayd had falsely attributed to causes other than overdose.

The former healthcare worker surrendered her nurse practitioner license in 2020.

Ms. Spayd "prescribed more than 4.4 million doses of opioid narcotics to roughly 450 patients between 2014 and 2019," according to the report, which noted she earned approximately $1.3 million during that time period.

Her activities caught the attention of the DEA when agents found out she was routinely writing second prescriptions for patients whose first prescription should not have run out yet. She also allowed patients to use multiple names, addresses and pharmacies when writing out the prescriptions for opioids, the report said. 

"The case is the deadliest known drug offense to ever happen in Alaska," Mr. Tansey wrote in a memorandum, where he referred to Ms. Spayd as a "serial killer with a poison pen."

Mr. Tansey said she wrote prescriptions for more than 18 million pills during her 20-year career, adding "she significantly fueled the opioid epidemic" in Alaska.

Steven Wells, Ms. Spayd's defense attorney, said he believed his client prescribed the medications despite the harm they caused because she was unable to turn down patients who were in pain or struggling with addiction. 

"Somebody has to be the adult in the room and say no, and Ms. Spayd had a hard time saying no," Mr. Wells said.

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