Editor’s Note: We’ve been following the case since I randomly met Ibsen during the Christmas holidays in 2014 when I was treated at his urgent care practice while I was in Helena visiting my daughter. Here’s our original story:
A Montana emergency room physician who became the face of the pain medication debate in his home state has won a major battle in his effort to keep his medical license. A state hearing examiner says the Montana Board of Medical Examiners did not meet its burden of proof that Dr. Mark Ibsen over-prescribed medication.
The examiner did say that Ibsen’s record keeping needed improvement and recommended some remedial issues, but on the big issue of whether he was over-prescribing, the examiner essentially said no.
Ibsen, who is not a pain physician, told us early this year that he began to treat more pain patients (and thus prescribe more medication) after other doctors in Montana essentially stopped seeing pain patients, particularly those who were using narcotic pain medication. He said he felt they needed and deserved attention. Here’s a blog he wrote for the National Pain Report.
The Montana Board of Medical Examiners has a decision to make whether to continue to pursue action against Ibsen, a decision which media reports indicate will take some time before it’s made.
Ibsen, who is always available for a quote, isn’t at this time. He and his attorney are mum on any reaction to this report. Ibsen has been very critical in the past of the Board of Medical Examiners.
The hearing examiner did propose that the board put Ibsen’s license on probation for 180 days, and take various measures to improve his record keeping. But on the more serious matter of failing to meet standards of care for the patients, the examiner found insufficient evidence.
One of our frequent contributors is Terri Lewis, Ph.D, who is a Montana native and has been following the case. She wrote a thoughtful response in a media report that we will quote here:
“It appears that Dr. Mark has 5-9 files with sloppy record keeping out of several thousand files that are apparently effective. Even within these files, it is possible to discern that the treatment applied was thoughtful and appropriate, that no patients were harmed (but indeed benefited), and that this witch hunt was conducted based on vigilantism of a rogue pharmacist. Thus is the state of chronic pain treatment – where governmental organizations and their self appointed corporate minions act out a mythology promulgated on public hysteria about an epidemic of harm due to overdosing. The 52 pages of the report reflect the mythology associated with the treatment of chronic pain which makes physicians and patients so vulnerable to vigilantism. There is no standard of chronic pain care because no person is the same as another – nor should there be a one size fits all approach. The law has repeatedly interpreted this to reflect what a reasonable physician, armed with the same information and circumstances would do to commence treatment given current practice experience and information. This physician is working for his patients and has built an effective system in a desert of pain care. Good for him. Maybe the good people of MT should help this guy continue to effectively serve the patients that nobody else wants to serve and figure out what he’s doing right. That ‘monitoring money’ would be better spent on helping Dr. Ibsen fund an EHR system because handwriting is being phased out of both school systems and medical records keeping. MT Board of Medical Examiners, you’re either part of the problem or part of the solution.”
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