In a new study, researchers found that for people who take prescription opioid pills for their chronic pain, it might be far harder to find a new doctor for health checkups.
The finding suggests that there are more patients who take opioids for chronic pain face could health care access problems than previous research has suggested.
The research was conducted by a team from the University of Michigan.
The team found that 40% of 194 primary care clinics contacted for the study said they wouldn’t accept a new patient who takes Percocet daily for pain from a past injury, no matter what kind of health insurance they had.
In addition, 17% of the clinics said they would want more information before deciding whether to take the patient.
About two-thirds of these said they would want the patient to come for a preliminary appointment before making a decision.
All the clinics in the study were accepting new patients at the time.
The team also found that larger clinics and those that offer safety-net coverage were three times more likely to accept patients who currently take opioids for chronic pain.
They say that having a regular provider could enable these patients to receive other pain-relieving treatments.
A regular health provider also can provide guidance in safely and gradually tapering their use of opioids.
The provider can provide a “rescue” drug for the patients to use in case of an opioid overdose, screen patients for signs of opioid use disorders, and treat such disorders if the patient is among the minority of people on long-term prescription opioid treatment who develop an addiction to the drugs.
But without access to such health care, the patients may turn to other means of obtaining opioids, which may lead to worsened health outcomes for their other medical issues like diabetes or high blood pressure.
The team hopes their study can help identify a way to improve the current policies and promote a more patient-centered approach to pain management.
They believe everyone deserves equitable access to health care, irrespective of their medical conditions or what medications they may be taking.
The lead author of the study is Pooja Lagisetty, M.D., M.Sc.
The study is published in JAMA Network Open.
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