If you’re black, Hispanic, or “Asian/other,” you might want to make sure your voice is heard loud and clear the next time you have to make a trip to the ER. Research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that over the past 13 years, white patients were prescribed powerful opioid painkillers 31% of the time, versus 23% for blacks, 24% for Hisanics, and 28% for Asians and “others.”
According to Reuters, “the study found the largest racial disparity in providing stronger medications was found among patients in the most pain and those aged 12 or younger.”
“There is no evidence that nonwhites have less severe or different types of pain when they arrive in the emergency department,” Pletcher said. “We think our data indicate that opioids are being underprescribed to minority emergency department patients, especially black and Hispanic patients.”
A factor may be that white patients are more likely to expect and demand relief from pain and better convey their symptoms in comparison to minority patients, the report said. Whites — who are more likely to have health insurance — may also be overprescribed the drugs, it said.
From Scientific American:
The investigators acknowledge that it is conceivable that the disparity represents overprescribing to white patients, but they think it a more plausible explanation is true undertreatment of pain in minority patients. This may not be a result of physician bias but could reflect expectations and assertiveness of the patients.
“Racial gap in ER opioid use still persists” [Scientific American]
“Minorities less likely to get pain relief-US study” [Reuters]