Wasilla doctor pleads guilty to drug charge after illegal opioid prescriptions contributed to deaths

a bottle of pills
Prescribing of oxycodone and other opioid pain pills rose sharply after 2000. (John Moore/Getty Images)

A Wasilla doctor has admitted to illegally prescribing thousands of opioid pills to patients, which federal prosecutors say contributed to five deaths.

David Chisholm, 64, pleaded guilty in federal court June 3 to one count of unlawful distribution of a controlled substance.

Chisholm admitted to prescribing patients various narcotic painkillers and opioids — including Oxycodone, Morphine and Fentanyl — without a legitimate purpose, and according to prosecutors, often without a medical exam.

According to the plea agreement, Chisholm dispensed the drugs outside of the course of his medical practice, a family health and pain management clinic in Wasilla called Camelot Family Health. Prosecutors said in a written statement that an extensive undercover investigation led to the charges against Chisholm filed in April.

Chisholm’s illegal prescriptions “significantly contributed” to the accidental deaths of five patients, who are listed in the document only by their initials, according to the plea agreement.

Chisholm will have to surrender his medical license. A judge is set to sentence him and consider approval of the agreement at a hearing scheduled for September.

Prosecutors say Chisholm could get up to 20 years in prison and a $1 million fine.

Chisholm’s attorney, Nick Oberheiden, wrote in an email Chisholm had served generations of patients during his career “to their fullest satisfaction and as a true patient advocate.”

“(He) made wrong and regrettable decisions when administering controlled substances medications to certain patients,” the attorney wrote. “He takes full responsibility for these mistakes.”

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Casey Grove is the host of Alaska News Nightly and a general assignment reporter at Alaska Public Media with an emphasis on crime and courts. Reach him at cgrove@alaskapublic.org.

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