Florence Doctor Facing Felony Charges has License Suspended

Dr. Chris Christensen was still refilling patients' prescriptions without seeing them

By Molly Priddy

HELENA — State regulators indefinitely suspended the license of a southwestern Montana physician for continuing to practice medicine without meeting the requirements of a probationary license that was issued after investigators found he had been over-prescribed narcotic and anti-anxiety medications.

The state Board of Medical Examiners held an emergency meeting Tuesday and suspended Dr. Chris Christensen’s license after learning he was refilling patients’ prescriptions for non-narcotic medication without seeing them and without having a another doctor supervise his practice.

Christensen’s failure to comply with the terms of his probationary license “and his admitted practice of refilling prescriptions without taking a history, completing an examination and entering proper chart notes creates a threat to public health, safety, and/or welfare that imperatively requires emergency action,” the board wrote in its order.

Christensen, who has 20 days to request a hearing, could not be reached for comment Wednesday. The phone number for his clinic was disconnected and the person who answered the phone at a home listing for Christensen said it was a wrong number. He appeared at the emergency hearing via phone without an attorney, the board said.

The board called Tuesday’s hearing after someone from a Missoula hospital called on Sept. 21 to check the status of Christensen’s license because he faxed an order, written on a prescription pad, seeking a consultation and a stress echocardiogram study for a patient, the board said. Christensen also acknowledged he had written refill prescriptions for blood pressure medication and thyroid medication for people in June, that he was preparing to re-open his clinic and that his wife was beginning to schedule patients, the board said.

Ordering an echocardiogram and refilling prescriptions amounts to the practice of medicine, the board said.

Christensen’s Big Creek Family Medicine clinic in Florence was raided in April 2014 by law enforcement officers. Soon after, the Board of Medical Examiners suspended his license saying Christensen prescribed his patients excess pills “dangerous combinations and quantities of drugs which are known to decrease respiration, posing a risk of death to the patient.” Two patients had died of drug overdoses, the board said.

The board issued him a probationary license in May 2015 under several conditions, including acknowledging some wrongdoing, not treating chronic pain patients and requiring that he find another doctor to supervise him.

In August, Christensen was charged with 400 felonies, including two counts of negligent homicide for the overdose deaths and nine counts of criminal endangerment along with hundreds of counts of criminal distribution of dangerous drugs. He has pleaded not guilty and was released from jail after posting a $200,000 bond.

Christensen, 67, had previous issues with his prescribing practices in Idaho.

He gave up his medical license for two years, starting in 2001, after the Idaho State Board of Medicine said he prescribed drugs that resulted in a patient’s death.

He was indicted by a federal grand jury in 2006 on charges that he unlawfully dispensed methadone and Xanax to a patient who died after ingesting both drugs. The charges were dismissed after his lawyer argued that there was no provision in the law for a death caused by an anti-anxiety drug like Xanax. The state could not prove that methadone alone caused the patient’s death.

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.