Missoula County medical providers are starting to feel the fallout from a Bitterroot doctor accused of over prescribing pain medications.
Dr. Chris Christensen's Florence clinic, Big Creek Family Medicine and Urgent Care, shut its doors last month after a multi-agency investigation and raid.
Christensen’s license was suspended indefinitely after an investigation alleged two of his patients died from overdoses.
Now some of his patients are turning to Missoula providers for help.
Dr. John Miller, the Medical Director at Missoula's community clinic Partnership Health Center, is helping to manage some of those patients who received high doses. It’s been challenging.
“It has them running out of their medications at the same time that we're trying to assess whether we might eventually prescribe them,” Miller said.
But Miller and other providers are working to steer the patients clear of opiates.
“What we're trying to do is kind of simultaneously judge what's the best treatment plan for them long term. But also in the short term try to help them through their withdraws,” Miller said. “And that for us does not include giving them more opiates.”
That's because according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) prescription drugs kill more people annually than car accidents.
And Miller says many chronic pain patients can be treated without opiates all together.
"Opiates are not going to give the best benefit. There's more evidence coming out to show that they may actually decrease function overtime. So people are less functional. Less able to hold jobs and participate in the activities they like to do."
Partnership and other medical providers will continue to help Christensen's patients and others find effective ways to manage their pain.
"That is probably going to include different prescription and different prescribe practices than what Dr. Christensen has had. But ultimately we're going to do our best to take care of these patients the best we can."
Charges have not been filed against Christensen. His license has been suspended indefinitely.