Crime & Courts

Wasilla doctor sentenced to federal prison for overprescribing narcotics

A former Wasilla doctor was sentenced Tuesday to serve nearly three years in federal prison for illegally distributing narcotics to his patients.

David Chisholm, 64, prescribed highly addictive prescription drugs — including oxycodone, methadone, morphine and fentanyl — “outside the usual course of professional practice and without a legitimate medical purpose” to his patients at Camelot Family Health, according to charging documents filed in the case.

His prescribing practices contributed to the overdose deaths of at least five of his patients, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Schroeder. Chisholm’s clinic was a “pill mill” where anyone could go to get opioids, he said.

Federal prosecutors said in a statement that Chisholm wrote more than 20,500 prescriptions to about 350 patients from 2014 to 2019. He frequently wrote multiple prescriptions for patients under different variations of their names, which allowed them to refill the prescriptions without raising flags from their insurance companies, the statement said.

“At one point Chisholm’s practices became so egregious that Walmart refused to continue filling prescriptions he had written,” the statement said. “In response, he instructed his staff to tell patients to go to other pharmacies.”

Chisholm often prescribed medications in combinations that increased the likelihood of drug abuse and overdose among his patients, according to the statement.

“Nothing can excuse (Chisholm’s) opioid prescribing practices in light of what is today universally understood about the risks of opioid use disorder and opioid overdose,” wrote U.S. Attorney John E. Kuhn, Jr. of the District of Alaska in the statement.

Chisholm surrendered his license in November of 2020 because of the investigation into his prescribing practices. The federal charges against him were filed in April.

During Tuesday’s sentencing hearing, Chisholm told Judge Sharon Gleason that he was remorseful for any harm he may have caused.

Chisholm practiced medicine for more than 30 years and served Southcentral Alaska patients for 22 years, he said. He is not board certified in pain management, but began treating patients who were experiencing chronic pain because he wanted to help them and enjoyed the challenge, he said.

Chisholm said he took on too much responsibility in pain management practices when he should have referred patients to specialized clinics. His family medicine clinic became known as a pain management clinic, he said, even though he was not qualified to treat chronic pain.

In the months prior to his arrest, Chisholm said he had been taking actions to reduce the number of opioids he was prescribing and wanted to encourage his patients to take a more holistic approach to chronic pain.

Chisholm was not prescribing the drugs just so he could make money, said his attorney Nick Oberheiden.

Chisholm pleaded guilty to the charge of unlawful dispensing and distribution of a controlled substance in June. On Tuesday, Gleason sentenced him to serve 34 months at a federal prison. He will be on supervised release for three years following.

Tess Williams

Tess Williams is a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News, focusing on breaking news. Before joining the ADN in 2019, she was a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald in North Dakota and previously helped cover the Nebraska Legislature for The Associated Press. Contact her at twilliams@adn.com.

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