Short Cuts

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BMJ 2008; 336 doi: (Published 10 January 2008) Cite this as: BMJ 2008;336:67

White people get better pain relief in US emergency departments

In the US, adequate prescribing for pain relief varies with ethnic group. Researchers used data from the national hospital ambulatory medical care survey to look at a nationally representative sample of 13 years of prescribing opioids for pain in emergency departments. They found that between 1993 and 2005, non-Hispanic white people were consistently given more opioids than other ethnic groups.

Total opioid prescribing is on the rise, from 23% of pain related visits in 1993 to 37% in 2005. This is in tune with the national standards and recommendations put forward in the 1990s, but the gap between ethnic groups has persisted. In 2005, for example, opioid prescribing rates were 40% for white people and 32% for all other people. Differences persisted after adjustment for pain severity and other confounders, and they were more pronounced in children and as the severity of pain increased.

The linked commentary (p 89) takes a global stand and says that …

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