Racial and ethnic disparities in emergency department analgesic prescription

Am J Public Health. 2003 Dec;93(12):2067-73. doi: 10.2105/ajph.93.12.2067.


Objectives: We examined racial and ethnic disparities in analgesic prescription among a national sample of emergency department patients.

Methods: We analyzed Black, Latino, and White patients in the 1997-1999 National Hospital Ambulatory Medical Care Surveys to compare prescription of any analgesics and opioid analgesics by race/ethnicity.

Results: For any analgesic, no association was found between race and prescription; opioids, however, were less likely to be prescribed to Blacks than to Whites with migraines and back pain, though race was not significant for patients with long bone fracture. Differences in opioid use between Latinos and Whites with the same conditions were less and nonsignificant.

Conclusions: Physicians were less likely to prescribe opioids to Blacks; this disparity appears greatest for conditions with fewer objective findings (e.g., migraine).

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Analgesics / administration & dosage*
  • Analgesics / supply & distribution
  • Analgesics, Opioid / administration & dosage
  • Analgesics, Opioid / supply & distribution
  • Black or African American / statistics & numerical data*
  • Child
  • Drug Prescriptions / statistics & numerical data
  • Drug Utilization / statistics & numerical data*
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Care Surveys
  • Hispanic or Latino / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Logistic Models
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data*
  • United States
  • White People / statistics & numerical data*


  • Analgesics
  • Analgesics, Opioid