Does Your Race Determine Your Opioid Dose?

A recent study presented at the American Pain Society 2019 Scientific Meeting looked into opioid prescription across different racial groups. The study found that minorities and people of color were prescribed opioid medication less frequently at a lower potency than their white counterparts for similar injuries. Hispanic, black, and Asian people were all prescribed opioids at lower MME units than white people for long bone fracture cases. For example, white patients are more likely to get prescribed oxycodone, which is 50% more potent than hydrocodone and Vicodin, than patients of color. Minority patients are also less likely to receive prescriptions for other pains, including back pain and abdominal pain.

The difference in prescription rates across racial groups could be attributed to inherent biases that physicians might not be aware that they have. For example, physicians might subconsciously believe that minority patients are more likely to misuse or abuse opiates. Of course physicians always want to help their patients, but they might not know that the reasons they are prescribing at different rates is due to inherent biases. 

One way to combat these dosing variances is to standardize opioid prescriptions based on the injuries or symptoms. For example, there could be a set way to treat long bone fractures, and physicians prescribe based on age and weight. Another method would be continued education and outreach about opioid medications and their associated complications. Both of these solutions would work towards eliminating biases in medicine and combat the opioid epidemic.

The population in Los Angeles is incredibly diverse. Patients of every creed and color deserve the absolute best care possible. At Elihu Institute for Pain Management, in Culver City, Beverly Hills, and Long Beach, we opt for conservative management whenever possible. We have advanced treatments available to handle any kind of pain to provide lasting relief, including diabetic peripheral neuropathy and cancer pain. Schedule a consultation today to find out what we can do for your pain.

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