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Study: Pain Meds Underprescribed To Black Patients In 90% Of Hospitals

“If we found this in half of the hospitals, maybe you could imagine something else, but it’s 90% of hospitals. I was shocked when I saw that,” said the study's primary author.

Here's yet another way in which white people make Black people's lives so much harder than they have to be. Black people have been saying for a long time that Black pain is too easily written off by white doctors and medical workers, and now they have absolute proof. Via STAT:

Inequities in health care are pervasive, from access to quality of care, and a new study finds that common opioids such as codeine and morphine are more often prescribed to white patients than to Black patients treated within the same health system.

White patients received both more pills and stronger doses, according to the study, published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine. In about 90% of the 310 health systems studied, the opioid dose prescribed to white patients was higher than the one prescribed to Black patients. On average, white patients received 36% more pain medication by dosage than Black patients, even though both groups received prescriptions at similar rates.

“There’s racial bias in the prescribing pattern, there’s just almost no other way to explain it,” said Nancy Morden, a family medicine specialist and health services researcher at the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice in Lebanon, N.H. “If we found this in half of the hospitals, maybe you could imagine something else, but it’s 90% of hospitals. I was shocked when I saw that,” said Morden, who is also the first author of the new study.

The study’s findings do not mean that Black patients should be prescribed more opioids, experts say.

“It would be wrong to come away from this and say, in a really simplistic way, that this means opioids should be prescribed more liberally to Black patients,” said Bateman.

Rather, he suggested that the data should be used to develop guidelines for assessing and managing pain with racial disparities in mind and making sure that approaches are applied equitably.

Pain management in general needs to be reformed. The problem is, every time there's another wave of prescription drug abuse and overdose deaths, the CDC hands down a more restrictive set of prescribing rules that inevitably result in people with chronic pain being unable to get the drugs they need to function. (I'm convinced this is one of the reasons people are more open now to legalized marijuana.)

We also know that people who become addicted to pain meds are generally dealing with psychological trauma, and may be more effectively treated with an emphasis on long-term counseling.

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