Spokane Naturopath Agrees to Pay $47,700 Civil Penalty for Improper Prescription of Controlled Substances
Spokane, Washington – Christopher M. Valley, N.D., a Spokane-based naturopathic doctor, has agreed to pay $47,700 to resolve allegations under the Controlled Substances Act that he improperly prescribed controlled substances between December 2015 and December 2020. The Controlled Substances Act regulates certain drugs deemed to pose a risk of abuse and dependence. To protect public safety and prevent misuse and diversion, the Act requires practitioners to register with the Drug Enforcement Administration (“DEA”) to prescribe these controlled substances.
During the relevant time period, Dr. Valley was a naturopathic doctor licensed in the State of Washington. Under state and federal law, as a naturopathic doctor, Dr. Valley was only authorized to prescribe two types of controlled substances: codeine and testosterone products. In the settlement agreement between the United States and Dr. Valley, Dr. Valley acknowledged prescribing at least 318 controlled substances that he was not authorized to prescribe, including stimulants such as modafinil (typically prescribed for narcolepsy and sleep apnea); the sedative pregabalin (sold by Pfizer under the brand name Lyrica); the diet drug phentermine; the sleep aid zopidem (often sold under the brand name Ambien), and one prescription for ketamine, a Schedule III anesthetic that is commonly abused recreationally.
The settlement agreement also further sets forth that Dr. Valley ceased his improper prescribing practices in September 2020 when pharmacists contacted him regarding his improper prescribing, and that he cooperated with the United States’ investigation, including acknowledging his prior improper prescribing and voluntarily surrendering his DEA registration. Additionally, the settlement agreement sets forth that Dr. Valley has implemented additional controls and procedures to ensure that this conduct does not recur.
“I am relieved that it does not appear anyone was seriously harmed by any medications prescribed by Dr. Valley, and I am heartened by Dr. Valley’s acknowledgment of his conduct and commitment to strict compliance going forward. But when a healthcare practitioner prescribes controlled substances that he is not qualified or authorized to prescribe, the public is placed at risk of potentially dangerous side effects, drug interactions, and contraindications,” said Vanessa R. Waldref, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of Washington. “This resolution demonstrates our strong commitment to protecting public health and to keeping our communities strong and safe. In particular, I commend the excellent investigative work conducted by DEA’s Diversion Group and the Department of Health and Human Services. We will continue to partner with DEA, HHS, and other law enforcement agencies to hold health care practitioners accountable.”
“Dr. Valley’s careless and irresponsible prescribing habits violated federal law and constituted a serious breach of his naturopathic license, which presented a clear and present danger to the health and safety of our communities,” said Frank A. Tarentino III, Special Agent in Charge of DEA’s Seattle Field Division. “We will continue to work with our federal, state, local, and tribal partners in the relentless pursuit of all those involved in the trafficking of opioids and other controlled substances.”
The settlement was the result of a joint investigation conducted by DEA’s Seattle Field Office, Diversion Group, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Washington, with support and assistance from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, Seattle Field Office. Assistant United States Attorneys Dan Fruchter and Tyler H.L. Tornabene handled this matter on behalf of the United States.