Rx pain medicines hard to find in pharmacies serving minority neighborhoods

found is that there are differences in availability of medications. If you are a person living in Detroit and you can't walk to the store to get the medications you need to reduce your pain and help you function, this can be a big problem," says Carmen R. Green, M.D., the U-M pain specialist who led the study.

Green launched the study after hearing from a patient who couldn't find a pharmacy in her mostly African-American neighborhood where she could fill a prescription that Green had given her to treat chronic pain. She had to go to a pharmacy in the suburbs to get the pain medication prescription filled.

Green sees patients with all types of pain at the U-M Center for Interventional Pain Medicine, and studies issues affecting them as head of the Michigan Pain Outcomes Study Team. An associate professor of anesthesiology at the U-M Medical School, she has specialized in studying topics relating to race, age and chronic pain, and chairs the American Pain Society's special interest group on Pain and Disparities in Pain Management.

The study she will describe at the APS meeting used data from the 2000 Census, including race, median age and median income by ZIP code. While the researchers did not find an influence on medication availability based on median age, the association with race was strong and there was an interaction between race and income when both variables were considered together.

Green's team telephoned the 190 pharmacies and asked them about their stocks of medications in three categories: long-acting opioid painkillers, short-acting ones, and combination products that include an opioid and a non-opioid drug.

Pharmacies had to have at least one drug from each category to be considered as having an adequate supply, though Green notes that it would be better to have several choices in order to fill a doctor's exact orders. In all, 71 percent of the pharmacies had an adequate supply of opioids usi

Contact: Kara Gavin
University of Michigan Health System

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