Here’s a strange and troubling tidbit from today’s Dallas Morning News. A recent study revealed that emergency room physicians prescribe narcotic painkillers more frequently to white patients than to minority patients. What’s especially odd about this fact is that whites are more likely to abuse painkillers than are blacks or Latinos. Here are excerpts:
Even for the severe pain of kidney stones, minorities were prescribed narcotics such as oxycodone and morphine less frequently than whites.
The analysis of more than 150,000 emergency room visits over 13 years found differences in prescribing by race in both urban and rural hospitals, in all U.S. regions and for every type of pain.
The study appears in Wednesday’s Journal of the American Medical Association. Prescribing narcotics for pain in emergency rooms rose during the study, from 23 percent of those complaining of pain in 1993 to 37 percent in 2005.
The study’s authors said doctors may be less likely to see signs of painkiller abuse in white patients, or they may be undertreating pain in minority patients.
In the study, opioid narcotics were prescribed in 31 percent of the pain-related visits involving whites, 28 percent for Asians, 24 percent for Hispanics and 23 percent for blacks.