Missoulian: Montana's Big Pain-Relief Debate 

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The State of Montana is gripped in a major medical debate.

While prosecutors in southwestern Montana's Ravalli County have indicted one physician for distributing drugs to patients outside the course of his practice, another physician has told his patients the move was an overreach, and he won't be providing chronic pain relief to many of his own patients.

This morning's Missoulian reports Dr. Chris Christensen of Florence, Mont., was hit with a massive indictment of 400 felonies, while another physician, Dr. Mark Ibsen of Helena, Mont., has told his patients "in solidarity" with Christensen, he "is taking some time off to plan the next safe course of action," calling his region's regulatory environment "hostile." Ibsen told the Missoulian he "is certain he's being investigated by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration."

Meanwhile, Terri Anderson, a Montana pain-patient advocate said chronic-pain patients need to step forward and voice their concerns over what she called "a growing health-care crisis."

“Pain patients are committing suicide, and families don’t want to talk about this, as they view it as bringing shame on them,” Anderson said, adding 40 percent of all Montana suicides are directly related to chronic pain and/or illness.

DEA officials and Ravalli County prosecutors are sticking to their charges against Dr. Christensen, saying the Florence physician distributed drugs to patients outside of his practice and even provided methadone to two Missoula patients who overdosed and died.
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