New documents reveal details in patient overdose death


HAMILTON, Mont. - Search warrants for a Bitterroot doctor reveal his patients, co-workers and even area pharmacists were concerned about the way he wrote prescriptions.

The state medical board suspended Dr. Chris Arthur Christensen's license last month over concerns about his prescription writing practices, and accusations that two of his patients died from overdoses.

His clinic, Big Creek Family Medicine and Urgent Care, shut its doors in Florence after a multi-agency raid. Investigators confiscated medical records, loose pills and prescription bottles.

Search warrant applications released Friday reveal new allegations of how Christensen was running his office and what led to a patients' death.

Names, places and times are all redacted for privacy reasons, but the allegations in the applications are clear.

A husband says he found his wife unresponsive at home. She was taken to the hospital but never regained consciousness. The Missoula County Coroner and Intensive Care Unit (ICU) personnel said the woman had several medications prescribed to her and the possibility of a drug overdose was high.

The husband told the coroner his wife hurt her back when she was 17, had chronic pain ever since and recently had surgery. The husband said she'd seen a doctor for help but it wasn't working. So she went to see Christensen, who allegedly prescribed her pain medications.

According to the search warrant application the coroner collected all the medication from the home and found that based on the quantity the woman had likely started with a higher dosage than prescribed.

The court documents reveal the tragedy isn't the only problem investigators found. Another unnamed patient reported he stopped going to Christensen because he was scared his treatment would turn him into a drug addict, after Christensen apparently continued to prescribe him more medication than necessary.

Another patient told police he became addicted to opiates and suffered withdrawals after he was arrested and stopped seeing Christensen.

Even Christensen's own nurse was worried. The court documents say she told Christensen some of his patients were selling their pills, and he reportedly said "I don't care what you think, that's the way this practice works." His responses were reportedly similar when the nurse told him her concerns about patients and their prescriptions, and when numerous pharmacies voiced those same concerns, some refusing to fill his prescriptions.

On top of that the nurse told investigators the practice took in between $1,500 and $2,000 a day, most of it in cash.

The Ravalli County Attorney's Office said the drug task force is going through thousands of records page by page, so it could be some time before the full investigation is submitted for review and a charging decision.