(HealthDay News) — Researchers have identified racial and ethnic disparities in opioid access for patients dying of cancer. The findings were published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology.

Researchers characterized disparities and trends in opioid access and urine drug screening among patients dying of cancer. Trends were examined from 2007 to 2019 for 318,549 non-Hispanic White, Black, and Hispanic Medicare decedents older than age 65 years with poor-prognosis cancers.

Across the racial and ethnic groups, patients experienced steady declines in end-of-life opioid access and rapid expansion of urine drug screening between 2007 and 2019.

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However, compared with White patients, Black and Hispanic patients were less likely to receive any opioids (−4.3 and −3.6 percentage points, respectively) or long-acting opioids (−3.1 and −2.2 percentage points, respectively). Black and Hispanic patients also received lower daily doses of opioids (−10.5 and −9.1 morphine mg equivalents per day, respectively) and lower total doses of opioids (−210 and −179 morphine mg equivalents, respectively).

The likelihood of undergoing urine drug screening was increased for Black patients (0.5 percentage points), and Black men were disproportionately affected by disparities in end-of-life opioid access and urine drug screening. These disparities were not attenuated after adjustment for socioeconomic factors.

“There are substantial and persistent racial and ethnic inequities in opioid access among older patients dying of cancer, which are not mediated by socioeconomic variables,” the study authors wrote.

Several authors disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

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