Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Who Gets Pain Drugs?

A study published in this week's JAMA suggests a dramatic difference in prescribing practice for whites and non-whites.

Among patients in severe pain, opioids were prescribed to 52 percent of whites, 42 percents of Hispanics and 39 percent of African-Americans.

The use of opioids increased overall from 1993 to 2005, but the differences in use between racial and ethnic groups did not change.

The study data comes from analysis of 374,891 emergency department visits over 13 years.

Another study published in the January 2006 issue of Cancer found that white women with metastatic breast cancer suffer less pain than nonwhites.


Dylan said...

Why would race determine what kinds of prescriptions are given? Does it have to do with allergies?

Ellen Troyer, MT MA said...

Economic status, and apparently race, play a role in who gets pain medication in most emergency rooms, which is where the data for this study was collected.

The unemployed and uninsured tend to use the emergency room for health care, as do addicted recreational drug users who want opioids.

This is just one of the areas that reflect a broken health care system.

Brian said...

This is really troubling that race would play a factor in who gets pain medicine. It just goes to show that Americans as a whole have not advanced as much involving racial issues as we claim to have

Fed up with the status-quo said...

Ms. Troyer,

Thanks for being outraged over the JAMA study featured in the Jan 2 issue of Science Daily. But you left out the findings that suggested pain medication prescribing rates were particularly low for:

1. Black and Hispanic children
2. Blacks in county and state hospitals
3. Asians and other insured by Medicare
4.All non-white patients in the Northeast

We know the study was not designed to determine the causes of these ethnic disparities in care, and we know they are complex, but your reasoning is probably right on the money.

Our health care system must change.

H. Stokes said...

We can pretend that the uninsured, unemployed and the disenfranchised are not forced to use hospital emergency rooms for most of their primary health care, but they are. The government ends up paying these bills in one way or another.

This country spends more money on health care than any other country, but provides adequate health care for very few.

Something's gotta give!