Health system fail: Black children less likely to receive pain medication than white children

Health system fail: Black children less likely to receive pain medication than white children

A new study of children with appendicitis found differences in pain med prescription linked with race.

Well, this is depressing.  A new study found that black children admitted to the ER with appendicitis are significantly less likely to get pain medication than their white counterparts with the same condition.

As the Market Business reports, Dr. Monika K. Goyal of the Children’s National Health System led a study of data from nearly 1 million children treated for appendicitis in emergency rooms from 2003 and 2010.  Appendicitis is an extremely painful condition with a protocol that calls for strong opioid medication.  The results of the study were alarming to say the least.

Of the 57% of children who received medication for the pain (in itself a low number), only 41% got the recommended opioid drugs.  Only 12% of black children with the condition received the opioids.

“Black patients with moderate pain were less likely to receive any analgesia, and black patients with severe pain were less likely to be treated with opioids,” Goyal wrote.  “Our findings suggest that there are racial disparities in opioid administration to children with appendicitis.”

The study found that black children were more likely to be given tylenol or ibuprofen.  Goyal’s team suggested doctors may be influenced in terms of what drugs to give by factors such as unconscious bias against their black patients, including fears that they are uninsured or that they are more likely to become addicted.  Strict protocols exist to prevent overdose or dependence on these drugs in children of all color.

“Although clinicians may recognize pain equally across racial groups, they may be reacting to pain differently,” Goyal wrote.  And that, of course, is a problem.



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