Pharmacies in minority, low-income areas less likely to carry sufficient pain medications

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Chronic pain is a condition that affects one in five Americans without regard for their race or finances. But a new study finds that minorities and people with low incomes have less access than high-income white people to the medications that will help them endure their pain.

In a wide-reaching study of 95 pharmacies in ZIP codes with predominantly white populations and 93 pharmacies in ZIP codes with predominantly minority populations, researchers at the University of Michigan Health System's Department of Anesthesiology found a pronounced gap in the availability of prescription opioid analgesic medications.

The study, which appears in the new issue of the Journal of Pain, found that Michigan pharmacies in predominantly minority areas were significantly less likely to have sufficient supplies of prescription opioid analgesic medications drugs that include oxycodone, morphine and methadone when compared with predominantly white areas.

In addition, the odds of not having sufficient supplies of opioid analgesics also known as narcotics are significantly higher among pharmacies in low-income areas compared with high-income areas, regardless of the racial makeup in the vicinity.

"The key finding is that there are differences in the ability to obtain pain medications in local pharmacies, with the lowest availability in minority and low-income areas," says lead author Carmen R. Green, M.D., associate professor in the U-M Health System's Department of Anesthesiology and pain specialist at U-M's Center for Interventional Pain Medicine. "The result of this disparity is that vulnerable populations are at increased risk for insufficient and lesser-quality pain care.

"For the pharmacies located in higher-income ZIP codes, those in white ZIP codes were more than 13 times more likely to have sufficient supplies than those in minority ZIP codes. When looking at those in lower-income ZIP codes, those in white ZIP codes

Contact: Katie Gazella
University of Michigan Health System

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