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Dover man found guilty in prescription opioid kickback scheme

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Christopher Clough (NHPR photo)

CONCORD - A Dover man was found guilty last week to receiving kickbacks in exchange for prescribing a powerful fentanyl spray to patients in violation of federal law.

A jury found Christopher Clough, 44, guilty after a weeklong trial in federal court in Concord.

According to testimony during trial, Clough worked as a physician assistant at a Dover pain clinic. 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 June of 2013 through the fall of 2014, Clough wrote more than 750 prescriptions for the fentanyl spray in New Hampshire, including more than 225 prescriptions for Medicare patients. The Medicare program paid over $2.1 million for these prescriptions.

Trial testimony demonstrated that 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.

Testimony at the trial also showed that 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. He faces up to five years in prison on each count of conviction when he is sentenced on March 29.

"Health care providers should make their treatment decisions based upon the needs of their patients, not their desire to pad their wallets," said U.S. Attorney Scott W. Murray. "Corporate money should not be allowed to influence a patient's medical decisions, especially when it comes to prescriptions for a powerful opioid drug like fentanyl. When providers are influenced by kickbacks, this can have tremendously bad consequences for patients. I thank the jury for thoughtfully reviewing the evidence and rendering this important verdict that shows that corruption in the health care field will not be tolerated."

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.

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