Former Physician Assistant Charged In Healthcare Kickback Scheme
Concord, N.H.—Acting United States Attorney John J. Farley announced that Christopher Clough, 43, of Dover, New Hampshire, was arrested today on charges that he received kickbacks in exchange for prescribing a powerful fentanyl spray to patients in violation of federal law.
According to the indictment, Clough worked as a physician assistant in New Hampshire. He was a frequent prescriber of a fentanyl spray that had been approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat breakthrough cancer pain. From approximately mid-2013 through Fall 2014, Clough wrote more than 700 prescriptions for the fentanyl spray in New Hampshire, including more than 200 prescriptions for Medicare patients. During that time, the manufacturer of the drug paid Clough purportedly to serve as a speaker at more than 40 programs at a rate of approximately $1,000 per event. In many instances, the programs were merely sham events where Clough was paid to have dinner with employees or representatives of the pharmaceutical company. In other instances, the programs were attended by individuals, including colleagues and friends, who were not authorized to prescribe controlled substances. For the majority of these dinner programs, the indictment alleges that Clough did not give any kind of presentation about the drug at all. Clough and others often forged signatures of attendees on sign-in sheets in an effort to make the dinners appear to be legitimate. The indictment alleges that the speaking program payments existed primarily to reward Clough for writing substantial numbers of prescriptions and to create an incentive for him both to issue new prescriptions and to increase dosages on existing prescriptions. From August 2013 until October 2014, Clough was paid more than $41,000 by the drug manufacturer.
Clough was charged with conspiracy and the receipt of kickbacks in relation to a federal healthcare program. Each charge carries a maximum term of imprisonment of five years and a fine of up to $250,000. Clough will appear before United States Magistrate Judge Andrea K. Johnstone today at 3:45 p.m..
Farley stressed that an indictment is not evidence of guilt. Charges are only allegations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Commenting on the indictment, said, “When health care providers make prescribing decisions based upon financial incentives rather than the best interests of the patient, it has the potential to put patients at risk. I commend the hard work of the law enforcement agents who have investigated this matter and look forward to proving this case in court.”
"As alleged, Dr. Clough was the top prescriber of a powerful fentanyl spray in the state of New Hampshire,” said Harold H. Shaw, Special Agent in Charge, FBI Boston Division. “He is alleged to have received kickbacks for issuing those prescriptions. The FBI will continue to attack the opioid epidemic from all angles, including rooting out individuals who place profit before patient safety."
“We take all allegations of kickbacks extremely seriously,” said Special Agent in Charge Phillip Coyne of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office of the Inspector General. “Working closely with our law enforcement partners, we will continue to protect the health of Medicare beneficiaries and the integrity of the nation’s healthcare system.”
This matter is being jointly investigated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Drug Enforcement Administration’s Diversion Control Division. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Charles L. Rombeau and Seth R. Aframe.
Charges set forth in an indictment are merely accusations and do not constitute proof of guilt. Every defendant is presumed to be innocent unless and until proven guilty.