Minorities Denied Potent Painkillers, Study Finds

ER docs prescribe more drugs to whites
By Colleen Barry,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 2, 2008 4:14 AM CST
Patients waiting in an East London surgery doctor's office. Minority patients are less likely to be prescribed powerful painkillers, according to a new study.   (Magnum Photos)
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(Newser) – Minority patients are less likely than white patients to receive powerful painkillers in hospital emergency rooms, a new study has found. Researchers discovered that 31% of white people in pain were given opioid drugs—narcotic painkillers like morphine and codeine—while Hispanic patients got them 24% of the time and blacks 23%. Overall, prescriptions for opioids have increased 14% since 1993.

"There is no evidence that nonwhites have less severe or different types of pain," wrote the study's author. "We think our data indicate that oploids are being under-prescribed to minority emergency department patients, especially black and Hispanic patients." The report speculates that white patients may be more likely to demand relief, or may be over-prescribed opioids because they're more likely to have health insurance.