Richland, Washington – Judith K. Caporiccio, N.D., a Richland-based naturopathic doctor, has agreed to pay $70,096 to resolve allegations under the Controlled Substances Act and the False Claims Act, which allege that she improperly prescribed controlled substances between July 2016 and July 2021. The Controlled Substances Act regulates certain drugs that 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. Caporiccio was a naturopathic doctor licensed in the State of Washington and practicing in Richland, Washington. Under state and federal law, as a naturopathic doctor, Dr. Caporiccio was only authorized to prescribe two types of controlled substances: codeine and testosterone products. In the settlement agreement recently reached between the United States and Dr. Caporiccio, she admitted issuing at least 421 prescriptions for controlled substances that she was not authorized to prescribe. These controlled substances included the sleep aid zolpidem (often sold under the brand name Ambien); the anti-anxiety drug alprazolam (sometimes sold under the brand name Xanax); the benzodiazepine lorazepam; the stimulant modafinil (typically prescribed for narcolepsy and sleep apnea); and the sedative pregabalin (sold by Pfizer under the brand name Lyrica).
The settlement agreement also indicates that Dr. Caporiccio ceased her improper prescribing practices in 2021 after being contacted by the DEA, and that she voluntarily surrendered her DEA registration. Additionally, the settlement agreement requires Dr. Caporiccio to implement additional controls and procedures to ensure that this conduct does not recur.
“My office is committed to protecting our community from drug misuse and diversion. I am relieved that it appears no patient was seriously harmed by the medications improperly prescribed by Dr. Caporiccio, but when a healthcare practitioner prescribes controlled substances that she is not licensed or qualified to prescribe, the public is placed at serious 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 commitment to protecting public health, keeping our families safe, and building strong communities. In particular, I commend the excellent investigative work conducted by DEA’s Diversion Group and the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General. We will continue to work with our law enforcement partners to hold health care practitioners accountable to their patients and the public.”
“Doctor Caporiccio’s careless and irresponsible prescribing habits are a violation of federal law and in serious breach of her naturopathic license, presenting a clear and present danger to our nation’s health and security,” said Frank A. Tarentino III, Special Agent-in Charge of the DEA’s Seattle Field Division. “The DEA is working closely with our federal partners in a joint effort to increase community outreach and education, while simultaneously using our civil and administrative enforcement authorities to hold accountable pharmacies who fail to exercise their corresponding responsibility and prescribers who are writing prescriptions outside their scope of practice. Today’s settlement sends a strong message that we will seek justice and hold those accountable, like Dr. Caporiccio, who intentionally distribute highly addictive drugs to patients with reckless abandon and no concern for their safety.”
The settlement was the result of a joint investigation conducted by DEA’s Seattle Field Office, Diversion Group, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General, Seattle Field Office, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Washington. Assistant United States Attorneys Dan Fruchter and Tyler H.L. Tornabene handled this matter on behalf of the United States.