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Use of opioids for pain in ERs on the rise, but racial differences in use still exist
Date:1/1/2008

In the last 15 years, use of opioid medications to treat patients with pain-related emergency department visits has improved although white patients were more likely to receive opioids than patients of a different race/ethnicity, according to a study in the January 2 issue of JAMA.

In the 1990s, national attention focused on increasing awareness of the problem of inadequately treated pain. Also, racial and ethnic minority groups appeared to be at higher risk of receiving inadequate treatment for pain in the emergency department, according to background information in the article. National quality improvement initiatives were implemented in the late 1990s, followed by substantial increases in opioid (narcotic agents used for pain relief) prescribing in the United States, but it is unknown whether opioid prescribing for treatment of pain in the emergency department has increased and whether differences in opioid prescribing by race/ethnicity have decreased.

Mark J. Pletcher, M.D., M.P.H., of the University of California, San Francisco, and colleagues examined whether opioid prescribing is increasing in U.S. emergency departments for patients presenting with pain and whether non-Hispanic white patients are more likely to receive an opioid than other racial/ethnic groups. Pain-related visits to U.S. emergency departments were identified using reason-for-visit and physician diagnosis codes from thirteen years (1993-2005) of The National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Survey.

During the survey years, pain-related visits accounted for 156,729 of 374,891 (42 percent) emergency department visits. An opioid analgesic was prescribed at 29 percent of pain-related visits. This proportion increased during the study period, from 23 percent in 1993 to 37 percent in 2005. Despite this time trend, the researchers found no evidence that the difference in opioid prescribing by race/ethnicity diminished over time. Averaged over the 13 survey years, opi
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Contact: Wallace Ravven
415-476-2557
JAMA and Archives Journals
Source:Eurekalert

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