Researchers at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor conducted a study to determine if racial disparities in pain management have changed, including disparities in prescription opioid treatment. Historically, research has suggested that U.S. health care providers have been more willing to prescribe narcotic pain relievers to Caucasian patients than to people of color.
The researchers analyzed 2000 to 2015 prescription data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey, which included people reporting moderate-to-severe non-cancer-related pain. They identified common opioids and three other classes of prescription pain relievers: nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), muscle relaxants, and cox-2 inhibitors to determine the effects of new national policies to improve prescribing practices.
According to the researchers, an equal number of blacks and whites surveyed in 2015 (approximately 23 percent) were prescribed opioids, suggesting that providers are less likely than in the past to discriminate against people of color when prescribing narcotic pain relievers. The caveat is that more people of color could be at risk for opioid addiction, a serious public health problem that has affected more white people to date.