A record number of people died of drug overdoses during the one-year period ending June 2021, federal health data shows
CNN  — 

An Alaska doctor was sentenced to nearly three years in prison after five of his patients overdosed and died from opioids he illegally prescribed them, authorities said.

David Chisholm, 64, pleaded guilty to one count of unlawful dispensing and distribution of a controlled substance, court documents state.

Chisholm illegally wrote more than 20,000 prescription’s including oxycodone, methadone, hydrocodone, morphine, tramadol, fentanyl, hydromorphone and buprenorphine to about 350 patients between January 2014 and October 2019, prosecutors said Tuesday in a news release. A charging document indicates he continued prescribing such drugs until October 2020.

“An extensive undercover investigation revealed that Chisholm routinely distributed the controlled substances without administering a medical exam and without a legitimate medical purpose. He also did not develop pain management plans for his patients and his record keeping was virtually non-existent,” the US Attorney’s Office for the District of Alaska said in the news release.

Chisholm intentionally gave his patients highly addictive and potentially lethal dosages and quantities of opioids, according to Frank A. Tarentino III, special agent in charge of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Seattle Field Division.

In some cases, Chisholm would change the names of his patients while writing prescriptions so the patients could, “continue to refill their drugs without raising red flags from Medicare or their private insurance,” the news release said.

“Sadly, Dr. Chisholm sacrificed his reputation as a patient advocate and his years of service to the Alaskan community by overprescribing opioids,” Nick Oberheiden, Chisholm’s attorney, told CNN in an emailed statement. “He expressed his sincere remorse in open court and he accepts the consequences of his misconduct. He hopes that his case serves as a warning to other physicians facing the same dilemma when treating chronic pain.”

Provisional data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that a record number of people died of drug overdoses during the one-year period ending June 2021. An estimated 101,263 people in the United States died of a drug overdose in the 12-month period ending June 2021 – up nearly 21% from a year earlier, CNN reported.

Chisholm must be supervised for three years after his release and pay a $25,000 fine, prosecutors said.

CNN’s Deidre McPhillips contributed to this report.