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Lawyer for former physician argues for accelerated rehabilitation in drug-prescribing case

By Karen Florin

Publication: theday.com

Published April 10. 2013 3:00PM   Updated April 10. 2013 11:49PM

Drug control officials who investigated the drug-prescribing practices of Dr. Scott Houghton and built a criminal case against him testified Wednesday morning at an accelerated rehabilitation hearing in Middlesex Superior Court.

Houghton's attorney, William F. Dow, is attempting to convince Judge David P. Gold to grant Houghton the accelerated rehabilitation program that allows first-time offenders to have their charges dismissed following a probationary period. Prosecutor Russell C. Zentner is opposing the application for the former Old Saybrook and Westbrook physician, who is charged with 47 felony crimes.

At the conclusion of Wednesday's hearing, Gold said he would accept written briefs from the attorneys and hear arguments on May 14 before issuing a ruling.

The prosecutor elicited testimony from Deborah Komoroski, a retired drug control agent from the state Department of Consumer Protection, and John Hennessy, an investigator from the federal Drug Enforcement Administration. They started investigating Houghton after receiving complaints that Houghton prescribed controlled substances so readily to drug addicts that they called him "the candy man." Houghton, 45, of Madison voluntarily suspended his medical license after he was arrested two years ago.

Komoroski testified that Houghton took on up to 97 Suboxone patients when he was only authorized to have 30. Suboxone, a maintenance drug for heroin addicts and those addicted to opiate-based pills, has been closely regulated since it was introduced as an alternative for methadone clinics about 10 years ago. The state alleges Houghton did not require the addicts to prove they were undergoing counseling and did not require regular urine testing.

Dow contends that counseling and urine testing are not required. Dow said the Suboxone patients represented only 0.04 percent of Houghton's practice and that the eight-hour online training provided to doctors who prescribe Suboxone was not adequate.

Testimony focused also on Patient 27, a woman who went to Houghton's office up to three times a day for Demerol injections for headaches. The woman often gifted Houghton with concert tickets and hotel stays at Mohegan Sun, which he admitted to investigators may have "skewed" his view of her when prescribing narcotics. Under cross-examination Wednesday morning, Komoroski said she was aware that the patient had also given tickets to Houghton's former partner, Dr. Steven Gaudio, and to other staff members in the practice.

Komoroski also testified that she did not advise Houghton to change his practices during the investigation. She said she never did so when investigating an "egregious" case.

Members of Gaudio's staff were at the hearing, as were Houghton's wife and mother-in-law. Houghton's attorney admitted that a lengthy accelerated hearing in a case involving multiple felonies is rare, but he said this was a unique case.

k.florin@theday.com

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