Study Finds Black Patients Receive Lower Pain Relief Doses
A recent study from Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire, analyzed pain medication prescriptions among White and Black US patients within and across individual health systems, revealing these disparities.
For decades, the American medical system has provided lower pain relief doses to Black patients compared to White patients. Researchers have argued that the cause for this pain alleviation imbalance are the lower-quality healthcare systems that serve more Black patients.
However, the study reveals that the problem is elsewhere. According to the data, both White and Black patients get an equal number of prescriptions for pain management, but Black patients are consistently prescribed much lower doses.
Dr. Tiffany Green of the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s population health sciences and obstetrics and gynecology department, who did not participate in the study, says that she and her team discovered that Black patients reported higher average pain levels than White patients but got equal amounts of pain medication.
Dr. Green noted that when taking into account the pain assessment Black patients reported, they received less pain medication compared to White patients. The same also applied to Asian patients.
The researchers looked at pain medication prescriptions from 310 health systems that serve Black and White patients in primary care. Overall, they discovered that Black and White patients were equally likely to be prescribed pain relievers. The dosages prescribed were different.
White patients received larger doses every year than Black patients in 90% of the healthcare systems studied. The variation in prescription strength was 15% or higher in most of these systems.
According to the new Dartmouth study authors, discredited stereotypes may also be impeding adequate pain medication for Black patients.
Another potential stumbling block is lowered expectations; Black patients do not perceive their health to be as poor as it is, especially in comparison to others they know.
On the other hand, White patients may believe they have a right to treatment because they are accustomed to receiving it.
Furthermore, the study’s authors urge physicians and healthcare administrators to investigate the causes of pain relief inequity and take steps to address them more seriously so that the color of one’s skin does not prevent one from receiving pain relief.
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