Black Patients Less Likely to Get Treatment for Opioid Overdose



By Dennis Thompson 

HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Could 11, 2023 (HealthDay Information) — Medicines that deal with opioid habit and forestall overdose deaths are drastically under-prescribed in the US, significantly for Black sufferers, a brand new research has discovered.

Disabled individuals on Medicare usually are not prone to be prescribed both buprenorphine – the most effective treatment for treating opioid habit – or naloxone (Narcan), a drug that may reverse a life-threatening overdose, researchers report within the Could 10 subject of the New England Journal of Drugs.

Additional, Black People are even much less doubtless than whites to obtain these meds following a medical occasion that clearly signifies the affected person has opioid use dysfunction, mentioned lead researcher Dr. Michael Barnett, an affiliate professor of well being coverage and administration on the Harvard T.H. Chan College of Public Well being in Boston.

“We discovered that white sufferers had been about 80% extra prone to get any therapy after one among these central occasions than Black sufferers,” Barnett mentioned. “We had been significantly shocked at how low the charges of therapy had been, given the type of excessive stage of want and excessive danger on this explicit inhabitants.”

For the research, Barnett and his colleagues analyzed claims information for greater than 23,000 disabled individuals 18 and older lined by Medicare between 2016 and 2019.

This group is disproportionately affected by opioid habit, with some estimates suggesting they signify one in 4 opioid overdoses in the US, researchers mentioned in background notes.

The researchers regarded for occasions that may have introduced an individual’s opioid use dysfunction to the eye of a well being skilled – an overdose, a hospitalization for drug use-related an infection or detox care, for instance.

They then assessed whether or not the affected person obtained a prescription for buprenorphine or naloxone inside six months of that occasion.

Outcomes confirmed that solely 23% of white sufferers, 19% of Hispanic sufferers and 13% of Black sufferers obtained a buprenorphine prescription.

Buprenorphine is “a medicine that’s identified to be fairly efficient, and but throughout the populations recognized within the research, prescription charges are simply fairly abysmal usually,” mentioned Christine Khaikin, a senior well being coverage lawyer for the Authorized Motion Heart, an advocacy group for constructing well being fairness.

The charges had been equally low for naloxone – 23% for whites, 21% for Hispanics and 14% for Blacks.

Buprenorphine prescription charges might have been dampened by rules that on the time restricted who might prescribe the therapy drug, Barnett famous. These restrictions had been just lately lifted.

However for naloxone, “which has no such restrictions in any respect, we noticed principally disparities of the very same magnitude,” Barnett mentioned. “There’s no motive why clinicians shouldn’t be prescribing this treatment to individuals with overdoses, but we noticed an enormous hole between white and Black.”

“And never solely that, regardless that there’s an enormous hole between white and Black, the general charges of individuals receiving any buprenorphine or naloxone had been extraordinarily low,” Barnett added.

What’s worse, sufferers recognized with opioid habit had been extra prone to be prescribed benzodiazepines — medication sometimes used to deal with nervousness that may dramatically improve danger of overdose when used with opioids.

About 37% of whites, 30% of Hispanics and 23% of Blacks had been prescribed benzodiazepines inside six months of an opioid-related well being occasion, outcomes present.

Researchers dominated out regional variations and sufferers’ entry to medical care as potential explanations for the well being inequities they uncovered, Barnett mentioned.

“What we discovered right here was that, as you’ll count on in a reasonably sick inhabitants of oldsters with incapacity, white, Black and Hispanic sufferers had been all seeing medical doctors fairly incessantly, together with emergency visits and workplace visits with psychological well being and first care suppliers,” Barnett mentioned. “But, you are still seeing this large disparity.”

One potential clarification is perhaps the disjointed nature of American well being care, Barnett mentioned. He famous {that a} current research of the VA well being system discovered a lot much less disparity between whites and Blacks in therapy for opioid habit – on the order of 42% versus 39%.

“To me, that means that perhaps there’s one thing in regards to the consistency and shared suppliers utilized by veterans that is perhaps extra of an equalizer than the very fragmented and segregated well being care system that whites and Blacks interact with in different settings,” Barnett mentioned.

The stigma surrounding opioid habit additionally might play an element, Barnett mentioned.

“There’s simply huge quantities of stigma round opioid use dysfunction that make suppliers tired of treating these sufferers, and makes sufferers really feel like they’re undeserving of therapy or that they do not wish to inform others about it,” Barnett mentioned.

The criminalization of habit by America’s warfare on medication added to that stigma, Khaikin mentioned. Blacks are much less prone to belief medical doctors and search care as a result of there’s an actual danger they’ll wind up behind bars.

“There’s prone to be a felony response to individuals of colour who expertise opioid use dysfunction,” Khaikin mentioned. “We’re nonetheless very a lot treating individuals with substance use problems with a felony response, and that should change.”

The US must dramatically rethink its strategy to opioid use dysfunction, treating it as an sickness somewhat than against the law or a weak spot in character, Barnett mentioned.

“Well being care suppliers must really feel that habit is quite common and it is one thing that they need to be capable of deal with,” Barnett mentioned. “It is a part of what it means to be a clinician. It isn’t any individual else’s job.”

The Nationwide Institute on Drug Abuse and the Nationwide Institute on Ageing funded the research.

Extra data

The U.S. Nationwide Institute on Drug Abuse has extra about efficient remedies for opioid habit.



SOURCES: Michael Barnett, MD, affiliate professor, well being coverage and administration, Harvard T.H. Chan College of Public Well being; Christine Khaikin, senior well being coverage lawyer, Authorized Motion Heart; New England Journal of Drugs, Could 10, 2023