Former Physician Assistant Sentenced To 48 Months For Kickback Scheme
Concord - United States Attorney Scott W. Murray announced that Christopher Clough, 45, of Dover, New Hampshire was sentenced to 48 months for participating in a scheme in which he received kickbacks in exchange for prescribing a powerful fentanyl spray to patients in violation of federal law.
Court filings and statements made in court established that Clough worked as a physician assistant in New Hampshire. After being approached by a representative of a drug manufacturer in June of 2013, he became a frequent prescriber of a fentanyl spray that had been approved by the Food and Drug Administration to treat breakthrough cancer pain. From approximately June of 2013 through the fall of 2014, Clough wrote more than 750 prescriptions for the fentanyl spray in New Hampshire, including more than 215 prescriptions for Medicare patients and several more for Tricare patients. The Medicare program paid over $2.1 million for these prescriptions, and Tricare paid nearly $600,000.
During the time he was writing these prescriptions, the manufacturer of the drug paid Clough 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. During most dinner programs, Clough did not give any kind of presentation about the drug. Clough and others often forged signatures of attendees on sign-in sheets in an effort to make the dinners appear to be legitimate. Evidence at trial demonstrated that Clough received over $49,000 in payments from the drug manufacturer.
Clough often prescribed the drug for patients who did not have breakthrough cancer pain. He often started patients on high doses of the addictive fentanyl spray and rebuffed patients and their family members who stated that they no longer wanted the drug.
Clough was convicted of one count of conspiracy and seven counts of receipt of kickbacks in relation to a federal healthcare program.
A jury found Clough guilty on December 18, 2018 following a six-day trial.
“Mr. Clough’s actions were a disturbing betrayal of his patients’ trust,” said U.S. Attorney Murray. “Rather than making his prescribing decisions based upon the needs of his patients, his decisions were tainted by the kickbacks he was paid by a pharmaceutical company. This substantial sentence should serve as a warning to all health care providers in New Hampshire that there will be severe consequences if they choose to engage in criminal conduct.”
"Mr. Clough is no better than a street level drug dealer,” said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Division. “He exploited his patients, betrayed their trust, and accepted kickbacks for his own personal enrichment. Today's sentence marks an important step in holding doctors responsible for their role in fueling the opioid epidemic and be assured, the FBI will continue to identify and bring to justice doctors like him whose practices promote fraud with a total disregard for patient safety."
“Medical professionals taking thinly-veiled bribes to overprescribe opioids threaten the lives of patients for personal gain,” said Phillip Coyne, Special Agent in Charge for the Office of Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. “OIG, along with our law enforcement partners, will ensure that criminals like Clough pay the price for their actions.”
“Fentanyl is causing tremendous damage to our communities,” said DEA Special Agent in Charge Brian D. Boyle. “Those who illegally distribute fentanyl will be held accountable through our court system. Today, Mr. Clough has been held accountable for his actions. The investigation and prosecution of illegal distribution of fentanyl is a top priority of the DEA.”
This matter was 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.