Black patients more likely to have opioids prescriptions discontinued, study finds

Black patients receiving opioids are more likely than white patients to be tested for illicit drug use to have their opioid prescriptions cut if they test positive, according to a study published in Science Daily.

Researchers at New Haven, Conn.-based Yale University analyzed about 15,000 electronic health records of patients who received opioids from the Veterans Administration between 2000 and 2010. The researchers reviewed patients screened for illicit drug use after starting opioids, which is a procedure recommended by the CDC. Researchers also looked to see if those same patients tested positive for marijuana or cocaine use.

The research team found few patients prescribed opioids tested positive for illicit drug use, but black patients were twice as likely as white patients to undergo the testing one, three and six months after starting opioid therapy.

When white patients tested positive for either marijuana or cocaine, about 90 percent continued to receive their opioid prescriptions. However, black patients were more likely to have their opioid treatment discontinued after testing positive.

"If they were black and tested positive for marijuana, they were twice as likely to have opioids discontinued, and for cocaine, they were three times more likely," said lead author Julie Gaither, PhD, RN, an instructor at Yale University School of Medicine in the pediatrics department.

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