A Montana Physician May be Back in Business Soon

A Montana Physician May be Back in Business Soon

By Ed Coghlan.

A Montana physician, whose license was suspended for how he prescribed opioids to his chronic pain patients, may be back in business.

Dr. Mark Ibsen, an emergency room physician in Helena, Montana has been under fire in the Treasure State for five years.  Ibsen’s practice of prescribing opioids came to the board in 2013 after a former employee filed a complaint against him, alleging that he over-prescribed medications for a number of patients.

This week, Judge James Reynolds found that the Montana Board of Medical Examiners made multiple procedural errors when it suspended Ibsen’s license in 2016 following high-profile and contentious hearings. The board erred when it rejected the findings of its own hearing officer, did not allow cross examination of a board member’s comments and considered evidence outside of the hearings, the judge ruled.

Ibsen’s practice of prescribing opioids came to the board in 2013 after a former employee filed a complaint against him, alleging that he over-prescribed medications for a number of patients.

Judge Reynolds rebuked the board’s “wholesale” rejection of much of the hearing officer’s report.

“These deficiencies violate of the requirements of MAPA for the agency to appoint a competent hearing examiner and for proper review of the hearing examiner’s findings,” the opinion says. “It is analogous to the selection of a jury in a civil case and then when the verdict comes in against a party, that party asking for the selection of another jury. Except in this case, it is even more striking because it is the agency who selected the hearing examiner.”

Reynolds also found that the board violated Ibsen’s due process when board member Dr. Mary Anne Guggenheim made several statements questioning the qualification of one of Ibsen’s expert witnesses, Dr. Charles Anderson, to testify as he did. Those statements, and two letters from a third doctor supporting them, were not presented on the hearing record and Ibsen was not given the opportunity to challenge the statements.

“Here we have a panel member making a comment during deliberation as to the believability and expertise of Ibsen’s expert witness,” Reynolds wrote. “This information was presented to the entire panel and used during the deliberation to reach its conclusion. Ibsen was not afforded the opportunity to cross-examine Dr. Guggenheim’s comments nor was he afforded the opportunity to present evidence to rebut her assertion as required by law.”

So, what will Ibsen, who used to be a contributor to the National Pain Report, do now?

Ibsen’s attorney John Doubek didn’t hold back in what he thought about the original ruling.

“They screwed up,” he said of the board. “I think it’s a pretty sharp rebuke to a decision that was totally off-base.”

 “The sad thing is my client has been under their thumb now for two years. He can’t move his practice because he has this black mark against his reputation and against his license, so he’s been unable to practice medicine and this guy is a good doctor.”

Doubek believes the board was seeking retribution after being challenged by Ibsen.

Ibsen has been outspoken on issues of pain management and advocated for prescribing and then attempting to wean patients from opioids. His prescribing practices were viewed as controversial by some in the Helena medical community, and Ibsen claims that some pharmacies refused to fill his prescriptions due to the quantity of opioids some patients were receiving. Ibsen often made public those and other instances as he advocated for a rethinking of pain patient treatment.

Doubek told the Helena Independent Record that Ibsen feels a bit vindicated by the ruling, but they remain unsure what the board will now do. Many of those who were on the board when Ibsen’s hearings took place have since been replaced.

Ibsen didn’t respond to the National Pain Report requests for a comment.

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Authored by: Ed Coghlan

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Im so happy for you Dr Ibsen. I have also read many comments posted by you and you seem to be a very kind dedicated doctor. Wish you could sue every person involved in this fiasco. But money probably couldnt replace what you and your family have gone through the years during this witchhunt. There should be ramifications for these board members. Ive had my life basically ruined by 2 incompetent surgeries. Even after 17 years its hard not to be bitter. I hope your not stuck with that too. Best of luck to you.

Robin Murray

It’s pathetic how the board treats doctors ..I don’t understand what is going on but I know it’s time for people , anyone , any American who feels like there is too much interference from other entities who know nothing about what is going on . Some doctors have to prescribe lots more meds that others , and this person that complained , was it a nurse ? It really doesn’t matter to me , I’m sick and tired of all of the outside entities watching everything everyone does . It’s sickening and it’s violations of privacy , civil rights of patients to be treated accordingly , they have no right to interfere with that . So I’m going to start screaming “ civil rights violation “ my right to pain meds so that I can function somewhat is my right , and they , meaning big brother , have no right to take that away from me ..
so if you know anyone who would file a class action lawsuit against the government for the rights of pain patients such as myself , then I think it would be a great idea to bring all of this out into the open .
Thank you
Robin Murray
Mobile al

Christine Smith

It is invigorating to read that finally the tables have turned! Way to go for not giving up on us chronic pain patients and you sacrificed your reputation and career for what you thought was “ doing your job; not allowing people to suffer; not allowing our government to dictate what you should prescribe bc you were doing what you should have been doing! Ty
Christine 16 yrs chronic pain patient and RN


Dr. Ibsen I am so happy your vindication has begun!

Maureen M.

Hi got to know Dr. Ibsen through the NPR and always enjoyed his comments and the fact that even though he has had to endure all that he has…he never stopped standing up for the rights of the CP community. Why? Because he understands and has empathy.
Whomever his disgruntled former employee was that brought this down on him, obviously does not understand our plight, our lives in hell with pain.
Congrats Dr. Ibsen! I am so happy for you and so sorry that you have gone through all that you have. Its been a bit since you have made any comments…please come back! 🙂
Keep strong and I will be praying that you get your license back ASAP and get back to practice with your head held high!! Maureen M.

Sandy M

Dr. Ibsen, so happy for you! I agree with all these posts about our pain and what the government thinks is beter for us than our doctors we have been seeing for 30 years. I’m with alll of you, been cut back and spend the day in bed. I hope and pray that all this mess gets straightened out so we in terrible chronic pain will be able to at least have somewhat of a life, whereas now we have none. God Bless All of You.

Angie H

The fact the board took a “former employees” word as truth and ruined a dr reputation and cost him and numerous patients lives, because yes those patients lives were put through the wringer too and I would bet some committed suicide because of this, is ridiculous. They didn’t think to question why they were a “former employee” or if maybe they were being vindictive.
I truly hope this doctor is able to get his practice back and the board is required to put notices out apologizing for their behavior and making sure other facilities treat this doctor fairly now. They screwed up not him and they need to fix it.
To the doctor and any other doctors going through this, I am sorry and thankful for everything you do to help every single pain patients, including myself, and hope this stupidity stops soon.


Ridiculous. Recently I lost my insurance when my husband lost his job. I have a great Dr and have had him for years. I had to move out of state and came back. With no insurance I could t afford the extended release opioid I was on ( oxycotontin) he then prescribed symptoms which saved me 200 a mobth, but even then , it was costing me almost $ 1,000 pet month. This month I had to ask him to put me on instant release I oh and lost 60 mg of pain relief. I am 50 years old and need that 50 mg to be able to work . I was evaluated for disability and of course denied . My Dr told me he was afraid to prescribe me the same amount in IR because of the issues. Ridiculous and it reminds me of the holocaust !! Slowly killing ” those of us off” . Who can afford that amount of money per month!!

M Billeaudeaux

So many pain management physcians are extremely concerned with their local medical boards and the “policing” of their practices and their prescribing routines. II am currently writing a letter to the medical board in my state to plead the case of the chronic pain patient, their physicians and how these medications make it possible to live and work and have a family. Most would be homebound– some bedridden. It is extremely urgent that these decision making boards understand the peril of the chronic pain patient. These groups need to understand that the pain patient maybe on medications for the rest of their lives, but that’s better than not living at all and it is alright. Patients follow their doctor’s instructions, take their medication as prescribed and they do not abuse or sell their pain medicine. Don’t punish pain we are NOT the enemy.Thank you.

Holly Davidson



Congratulations Dr. Ibsen! You and your family are in my thoughts and prayers!

Time for Ibsen to sue the medical board members in their individual capacities as was done recently in MD by a controversial vaccine doctor. (see https://healthimpactnews.com/2018/dr-mark-geier-wins-lawsuit-against-maryland-board-of-physicians/) He won. If successful, this would help to teach MT board members (and by extension, perhaps other state boards) that they cannot discriminate with impunity based on their own preconceived notions of standard practice. Of course, it would not help the good doc to get back into practice, unless the court ordered it so. But it could give him some sustenance at least!


How does that patient know what medications other patients are taking? More importantly, why is it his business at all? I don’t know the particulars of the case but as far as I can see, the only thing that I can say about the doctor is GOOD FOR YOU!!! I think it’s horrible to strip someone of their, (10 years in college), medical license for helping people deal with their chronic, widespread pain. The real crime committed here and all across the nation is, doctors being forced to drastically reduce people’s life saving medications for inaccurate, false statistics, btw, does anyone know who compiled this data? And what were the methods of gathering this data? I would love to see the group of people doing the study to be interviewed by a select group of doctors, and maybe 3 or 4 professional polling companies and then compare statistics. Everyone knows that will NEVER happen, the government never walks anything back especially when they’ve reacted so drastically, ruining people’s lives because of their bad statistics! I hope this doctor can scrape his life back together and put this behind him. And to the doctor I say, “THANK YOU FOR DOING YOUR JOB AND GIVING YOUR PATIENTS LIFE SAVING MEDICATIONS”. Let’s hope that people are able to find a way to cope with their pain and live their lives the best that they can. God bless all of my chronic pain brothers and sisters. Stay positive!!! You’re stronger than you think.

Kris Aaron

Physicians who dare to prescribe opioids for chronic pain are in more danger from their state medical boards than the DEA! From the information in the above article, it sounds like the Montana Board of Medical Examiners was determined to “get” Dr. Ibsen. Board members didn’t give a s#!t who else got hurt by their petty quarrel — including the doctor’s pain patients.
This is a classic example of why many doctors are refusing to write opioid prescriptions for anyone, no matter how justified. It’s tragic that appropriate medical care can be derailed by politics.

Steven Henson

It is nice to see my Colleague regain the opportunity to care for the patients who so desperately need his wise counsel and care.


I have read many if not most of Dr. Ibsens comments here on NPR as well as have seen some photographs of his patients work by their ortho doctors and it does not take genius to realize that Dr. Ibsen was indeed attempting to help patients with their unbearable pain. As a a patient myself for 24 years now,my life radically changed with the CDC “guideline” for opioid prescribing physicians. The “guideline” ass umes that ALL opioid prescribing physicians were prescribing far too much medication without checks and balances, challenging ALL prescribing doctors ability to manage their patients pain without harm to the patient all while CDC absolutely knew that IF an incident happened with a physician harming the patient or worse while being prescribed opiate or opioid medication, the very first one to be questioned would be the prescribing doctor and if said doctor did not have documentation on the patient as to why the doctor prescribed a certain dosage to a particular patient, the doctor was in trouble.
The answer, CDC “experts” went behind closed doors, only accepted other “expert” doctors opinions in the field of pain management that agreed with what the CDC “expert” panel already intended to do. Reduce ALL patients who were being treated with opiate/opioid medication to a national maximum “standard”. ,
I applaud DR. Ibsen for his tenacity and heart felt need to ease pain with a dosage of medication for patients who came to his place of employment as an ER doctor. AS the numbers show, overdose from opiates rose, even a full year after doctors were forced with the threat of license surrender to reduce patients in medication if the dosage exceeded what the behind closed doors “experts” panel from the CDC considered sufficient. Doctors ….EARN their license to perform surgery, diagnose and treat injury and disease through YEARS and decades of hard work and continue to develop understanding of pain management patients as well as emergency situations with patients on the brink of suicide from unmanaged and now untreated pain. ALL documentation and history of success without harm has been thrown out the window for pain management patients with the CDC “guideline” for opioid prescribing physicians. I am sure DR. Ibsen has seen many other doctors patients that were simply in intolerable, overpowering pain, knew the ONLY available answer to help but, dared to challenge the “experts” that authored a national “guideline” for opioid prescribing.