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State Medical Board Examines Pain Treatment, Opioid Abuse Questions

Morphine pills.
Eric Norris (CC-BY-2)
State Medical Board Examines Pain Treatment, Opioid Abuse Questions

Montana’s Board of Medical Examiners is learning more about how doctors treat pain and prescribe pain medicines as they grapple with the state and national crisis surrounding opioid painkiller abuse.

Last Thursday, national and state experts and a pain patient spoke before the medical board about the treatment of chronic pain.

Executive Director Ian Marquand says the board wants to learn responsible prescribing practices.

“In recent months the board has heard comments from Montanans on the subject of chronic pain and its treatment, specifically that it has become harder for patients with chronic pain to find treatment.”

American Board of Pain Medicine Doctor Robin Hamill-Ruth says the national epidemic around opioid painkillers arose, in part, out of the medical community’s past liberal prescribing of the drugs.

She says the wave of prescribing has now crested, and some doctors are growing wary of opioids.

“We have shifted into this opioid-phobic mentality. And I think government intervention concerns me in that you have politicians and non-prescribers making decisions about how medicine should be practiced. And if physicians as a group, and providers and prescribers don’t step up and take care of doing it the right way and be responsible for themselves, we are going to have other people telling us how to do our jobs.”

The medical board also for the first time formally heard from a local pain patient advocate. Kate Lamport is a supporter of the proposed Montana Pain Patients Bill of Rights.

That legislation will be proposed during the next session and aims to balance the state’s duty to control the illegal use of the drugs with the use of them to treat chronic pain.

A Board of Medical Examiners spokesperson said the board has no immediate plans for the information they were given on Thursday.

Corin Cates-Carney manages MTPR’s daily and long-term news projects. After spending more than five years living and reporting across Western and Central Montana, he became news director in early 2020.
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