Physicians Differently Prescribe Pain Relief Medications to White and Minority Patients

PainRelief.com Interview with:
Dan P. Ly M.D., M.P.P., Ph.D.
Division of General Internal Medicine and Health Services Research
David Geffen School of Medicine
University of California, Los Angeles

PainRelief.com:  What is the background for this study?  What are the main findings?

Response: We know that minority patients were less likely to receive opioids than white patients, but this could have been due to minority patients seeing lower opioid-prescribing physicians. As far as I could tell, nobody had been able to examine whether the same physician prescribed opioids differently to their minority patients.

I find that this is the case: the same physician was less likely to prescribe opioids to their minority patients with new low back pain, and instead was more likely to prescribe NSAIDs to their minority patients. And unfortunately, this differential prescribing may have had the consequence of leading to more chronic opioid use in white patients.  

PainRelief.com: What should readers take away from your report?

Response: At the height of the opioid epidemic when the dangers of opioids weren’t as well-known as they are today, physicians seemed to have treated the pain of their minority patients differently than the pain of their white patients.  

PainRelief.com: What recommendations do you have for future research as a result of this work?

Response: I was only able to examine elderly patients with Medicare. I suspect that these prescribing differences I find by the same physician are even larger in the under-65 population. I think this would be an interesting question to explore.  

PainRelief.com: Is there anything else you would like to add?

Response: No, thank you. I have nothing to disclose. This work was supported by the National Institute on Aging. I am also a physician in the VA, and these views are mine only and do not necessarily represent the views of the US Department of Veterans Affairs or the US government.  

Citation:

Ly DP. Association of Patient Race and Ethnicity With Differences in Opioid Prescribing by Primary Care Physicians for Older Adults With New Low Back Pain. JAMA Health Forum. 2021;2(9):e212333. doi:10.1001/jamahealthforum.2021.2333

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