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Study finds differences in opioid prescribing for Black and white patients

Black and white patients within the same health system are subject to very different opioid prescribing behaviors, a new study published in the New England Journal of Medicine points out.

The study examined 310 different health systems, comparing opioid orders filled in 2016 and 2017 by more than 600,000 Medicare beneficiaries with disabilities. White patients typically received pain medication for longer durations and at higher doses than did their Black counterparts, the findings show.

This disparity was evident even when patients were seen by the same providers.

The study results are not a blanket endorsement for prescribing more opioids to Black patients, experts emphasize. But they could help inform guidelines for evaluating and managing pain while taking racial disparities into consideration and ensuring that strategies are applied equitably.

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