WEDNESDAY, Aug. 4, 2021 (HealthDay News) — Within individual health systems, Black and White patients receive markedly different opioid doses, according to a study published in the July 22 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Nancy E. Morden, M.D., from the Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice in Lebanon, New Hampshire, and colleagues used 2016 and 2017 Medicare claims data to examine within-health system prescription opioid receipt by race. The analysis included 310 diverse health systems with 200 or more person-years each for Black and White patients.

The researchers found that the crude annual prevalence of any opioid receipt differed slightly between Black and White patients (50.2 versus 52.2 percent), while the mean annual dose was 36 percent lower among Black patients versus White patients (5,190 morphine milligram equivalents [MME] versus 8,082 MME). The annual prevalence of opioid receipt differed little within systems when adjusting for race differences in measures, but the mean annual dose was higher among White patients than among Black patients in 91 percent of the systems (and ≥15 percent higher in 75 percent of the systems).

“The findings should prompt systems to explore the causes and consequences of these biased patterns and to develop and test efforts to eliminate the influence of race on the receipt of pain treatment,” the authors write.

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