Doctor labeled 'candy man'

Dr. Scott Houghton, left, stands with his attorney William Dow, as he makes his first court appearance since being arrested on April 12 on 47 felonies involving prescriptions, at the Middlesex Superior Courthouse in Middletown, Conn., Tuesday, April 26, 2011.
Dr. Scott Houghton, left, stands with his attorney William Dow, as he makes his first court appearance since being arrested on April 12 on 47 felonies involving prescriptions, at the Middlesex Superior Courthouse in Middletown, Conn., Tuesday, April 26, 2011. Tim Martin/The Day Buy Photo

Drug addicts called Dr. Scott W. Houghton "the candy man" because he readily wrote out prescriptions for the controlled substances they sought, according to a court document.

The warrant for his arrest says that Houghton, who practiced for six years in Old Saybrook and more recently in Westbrook, sometimes didn't require patients to enter an examining room during their office visits. He would meet them in the hallway and hand them their prescriptions. If they ran out of drugs before their next scheduled visit, he would simply write them another prescription. Rarely would he require drug-addicted patients to prove they were undergoing the required counseling, and most of the time he didn't even take their blood pressure or pulse, according to the warrant.

"He was just in it for the money," one of his former patients told investigators.

Houghton admitted to an investigator that he accepted free concert tickets and hotel stays from a high roller at Mohegan Sun who came into his office up to three times a day for injections of the pain reliever Demerol. He conceded that the gifts, including tickets to REO Speedwagon/Styx and Beyonce concerts, may have "skewed" his view of the patient when prescribing her narcotics.

An arrest warrant affidavit detailing a two-year investigation by the state Department of Consumer Protection Drug Control Division and other agencies was made public Tuesday when Houghton, 43, of 15 Shepherds Trail, Madison, was arraigned in Middlesex Superior Court in Middletown on 47 felony charges. Houghton had posted a $250,000 bond after his April 12 arrest. His appearance before Judge Lisa Kelly Morgan lasted less than a minute while the judge transferred the case to the higher-level court and continued it to May 24.

Houghton, who is represented by New Haven attorney William F. Dow, is charged with 30 counts of illegal prescribing/sale of narcotics, 14 counts of illegal prescribing/sale of controlled substance, two counts of failure to maintain controlled substance records and one count of failure to maintain security for controlled substance records.

State Department of Public Health records show Houghton is licensed to practice medicine but not to prescribe controlled substances. His prescription license was suspended on Feb. 3, 2010, the day after agents raided his office at 929 Boston Post Road in Old Saybrook.

Houghton's practice came into focus in 2008 when the operator of eight substance abuse recovery houses reported that recovering drug addicts were referring to Houghton as "the candy man" because it was easy to get medication from him in exchange for cash, according to the affidavit.

In particular, the recovering addicts mentioned Suboxone, a drug used to help wean addicts from heroin and other opiate-based substances. Doctors who prescribe Suboxone must be registered with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency and follow a treatment protocol. Houghton was registered to treat up to 100 patients with Suboxone but used medical coding to conceal additional patients, according to the affidavit.

During their investigation, agents interviewed Dr. Steven Gaudio, who partnered with Houghton at Premier Medical Associates from 2004 to 2010, and Gaudio's wife, Barbara Gaudio, who was the office manager. They spoke with medical staff from the practice and with numerous pharmacists in the area who reported that Houghton's patients often tried to fill prescriptions too early. The investigators interviewed former patients of Houghton and asked medical experts to review patient records for prescription abuse.

Dr. Samuel Silverman, a psychiatrist and addiction specialist from West Hartford, reviewed 22 medical records of Houghton's Suboxone patients and concluded that Houghton "has demonstrated a pattern of indifference to the general welfare of the patients and their illnesses."

Silverman wrote in his report that Houghton neglected to make accurate diagnoses, indiscriminately prescribed controlled substances, failed to monitor patient use or abuse of medications and failed to coordinate care of opiate-addicted patients with other physicians.

In one case, a young man referred to as "Patient 19" began seeing Houghton upon his release from Stonington Institute, where he had gone for drug rehabilitation after becoming addicted to painkillers prescribed after a car crash about 10 years ago. The man paid Houghton $100 in cash for Suboxone and Xanax, drugs that should not be combined. In December 2008, the office received two calls reporting that "Patient 19" was selling the Suboxone. Two months later, Patient 19 was found dead in his home from an overdose of alcohol and Xanax.

Before his death, the patient told a friend that when he complained about paying $100 in cash for his prescriptions, the doctor's response was, "It's still cheaper than buying it on the street," according to the warrant.

One Suboxone patient said he alternated the use of heroin and Suboxone while seeing Houghton. With other doctors, the man said, he had to submit someone else's urine in order to continue receiving his prescription, but this was unnecessary with Houghton because Houghton never screened his urine. Visits lasted just a few minutes, and the doctor was just "throwing me the paper," he said.

"I think Dr. Houghton is a sweet guy, but I think he got over his head with Suboxone," the patient told investigators.

k.florin@theday.com

Dr. Scott Houghton, left, stands with his attorney, William Dow, as he makes his first court appearance at Middlesex Superior Court since being arrested April 12 on 47 felonies involving prescriptions.
Dr. Scott Houghton, left, stands with his attorney, William Dow, as he makes his first court appearance at Middlesex Superior Court since being arrested April 12 on 47 felonies involving prescriptions. Tim Martin/The Day Buy Photo
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