URMC Study Shows Bias in Prescribing of Pain Medication

Jul 22, 2013

Credit www.abcnews.go.com

Your socioeconomic status plays a role in whether you will receive pain medication when you visit the emergency room, according to a local study. 

Researchers at the University of Rochester looked at data from more than 50,000 adult visits to approximately 1,400 emergency rooms across the country between 2006 and 2009. 

They found that patients who are black, Hispanic, poor, or less educated are less likely receive opioid pain medications than more affluent patients.

Dr. Robert Fortuna, assistant professor of Medicine and Pediatrics at URMC, says the results of the study point to a need for a national discussion on how to achieve unbiased treatments.  "The best way to fight against any bias is open and communication between patients and their physicians. Physicians want to help. Pain is nuanced,  and open communication will enable providers to make better decisions."

The study showed that patients in the highest income neighborhoods received prescriptions 49% of the time for moderate to severe pain, compared to patients from lower income areas that received prescriptions 39% of the time. 

Prior studies have shown similar discrepancies based on race, even in cases where a patient has a bone fracture.