A new nationwide study conducted by researchers at the University of California, San Francisco finds that Black patients who are treated for back or abdominal pain at hospital emergency rooms are half as likely as whites to receive prescriptions for opioid drugs to alleviate pain.
Researchers examined data from more than 60 million pain-related emergency room visits between 2007 and 2011. They found that in cases where there was no definite outward sign of a pain-producing injury, Black patients were half as likely as White patients to be given prescriptions for opioids.
Renee Y. Hsia, professor of emergency medicine at the University of California, San Francisco and senior author of the study, stated that “whether or not someone needs opioids is a very subjective decision. There isn’t an objective test. Even when we are trying our best to care for our patients, bias can creep in. We can’t do anything about biases unless we know they exist.”
The study, “Racial-Ethnic Disparities in Opioid Prescriptions at Emergency Department Visits for Conditions Commonly Associated With Prescription Drug Abuse,” was published online at PLOS ONE. It is available here.