It’s hard to win the fight against the opioid crisis if one of the top doctors tasked with winning it is part of the problem. But in Michigan, Dr. David Neff, D.O., a doctor who has won awards for his work combating the opioid epidemic, is now facing multiple accusations of negligence, improperly prescribing and overprescribing opioids. Neff, who last year received the Michigan Academy of Family Physicians and Michigan Association of Osteopathic Family Physicians 2018 Friend of Family Medicine Award, has yet to respond to complaint filed against him May 1.
Award-Winning Doctor Violated Several Rules for Prescribing Opioids, Complaint Alleges
Thanks to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by Gongwer News Service, we now know that on May 1, the Michigan Department of Licensing and Regulatory Affairs (LARA) filed a complaint against Dr. David Neff. The complaint contains multiple accusations of neglect and failure to properly and safely prescribe opioids, the Detroit Free Press reports.
The complaint involves several patients at Neff’s private medical practice of about 85 patients. 25 percent of the patients at Neff’s practice are under palliative care, battling terminal or serious illness and related chronic pain. In addition to his part time practice, Neff works full time for the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
According to the complaint, Dr. Neff prescribed several patients “opioid medication in high doses that carried significant risks.” The complaint also says Neff put patients at risk of drug diversion, failed to adequately monitor psychiatric risk factors for abuse and prescribed opioids in a manner that “fell below the standard of care.” Furthermore, the complaint alleges Neff failed to follow a host of CDC rules and procedures for prescribing opioids, including reporting requirements or justifying increases in patients’ opioid dosage.
Neff is one of Michigan’s most prominent doctors. He’s their chief medical director for Medicaid. in 2018, Neff delivered a presentation to colleagues titled, “The Evolving Landscape of the Opioid Epidemic in 2018 — What the Provider Can Do.” Neff has received honors and awards for his work in this field.
After learning about the complaint on May 7, the Michigan Department of Health and Human services, where Neff works full time for $194,184 a year, placed Neff on paid administrative leave May 9. Neff will remain on paid leave until officials resolve the LARA complaint.
Medical Cannabis Reduces Use of Opioid Pain Meds, Say University of Michigan Researchers
In a presentation dated March 2, 2018 and titled, “The Addiction Epidemic: Impacts and Opportunities,” Dr. David Neff focuses in on the “changing landscape of the opioid mortality crisis in 2018.” That presentation lists as one of its objectives “sharing what we can do to minimize risk for opioid use disorder, overdose and death.”
To meet that objective, the presentation might have addressed a 2016 University of Michigan study about cannabis and opioids. Researchers with the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health and Medical School found that patients who used medical marijuana to control chronic pain reported a 64 percent reduction in their use of prescription opioids.
But in Neff’s 60-slide presentation on ways to reduce opioid deaths, the word marijuana appears only once. It’s in a slide about neonatal abstinence syndrome, listed as an “addictive drug” alongside nicotine, amphetamines and cocaine.