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Physician Assistant Who Over-Prescribed Opioids Loses License Permanently

Brian Wallstin/NHPR
Physician Assistant Chris Clough listens to testimony at his disciplinary hearing before the Board of Medicine in March.

A physician assistant sanctioned a year ago for improperly prescribing narcotic painkillers has been ordered to surrender his license permanently. 

Chris Clough, a long-time employee of the state's largest chain of pain clinics, failed to abide by restrictions placed on his license two years ago, according to the New Hampshire Board of Medicine.

At the time, the Board was investigating Clough for over-prescribing opioidsand performing unnecessary injections. During the investigation, Clough agreed to consult with his supervising physician and receive "pre-approval" before performing the procedures. 

In November 2014, board members conducted an unannounced inspection of patient records and discovered that, in most cases, Clough's supervisor didn't sign off on the treatment until "after the fact."

Clough worked for Pain Care, a chain of office-based clinics, from 2004 to 2015. During that time, he was one of New Hampshire's most prolific prescribers of opioids. Medicaid records showed that, from 2010-2013, dozens of Clough's patients were on dangerously high daily doses of the drugs.

In October 2015, as state policymakers debated tougher rules for prescribing opioids, the Board of Medicine took away Cough's prescribing privileges, suspended his license for 90 days and prohibited him from practicing pain management. 

The investigation found that Clough often failed to warn patients of the risks of opioids. He also failed to screen them for addiction or mental illness, and he disregarded drug screens that suggested his patients were abusing their medications.

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