Osteoarthritis (OA) affects 21 million individuals in the United States and is a leading cause of disability among older adults. In the next two decades, our nation’s healthcare systems will face the challenge of treating a rapidly increasing number of older adults, including a growing population of ethnic minorities, with OA. Pharmacotherapy is the cornerstone of treatment for OA. Yet little is known about how patient demographic and clinical characteristics are related to perceived efficacy of analgesic and anti-inflammatory medications. It is particularly important to examine the relationship of race to pain medication efficacy, since there are known racial differences in pain thresholds, sensitivity, and perceptions.

Most published reports of clinical trials of analgesic and anti-inflammatory medications do not include subanalyses of results according to race (or other demographic variables). One study found no racial difference in subjects’ responses to rofecoxib therapy. However, this study only compared white and nonwhite subjects, with no other specific racial groups being examined. discount drugs canda

In a cross-sectional survey study, Ibrahim et al. reported that African Americans with OA were more likely than Caucasians to perceive Tylenol® as being helpful. However, there was no racial difference in perception of the efficacy. This study suggests there may be racial differences in perceptions of some, but it did not measure perceived efficacy of specific medications currently being used by subjects.

The purpose of this study was to examine whether African-American and Caucasian veterans with OA differed in their perceptions of the helpfulness of their current analgesic and anti-inflammatory medications. The VA healthcare system is an equal-access system in which medication co-payments are low and equal for all drugs. Since access-to-care issues are minimized, the VA healthcare system is an excellent source of data for examining racial differences in healthcare use and treatment perceptions. To our knowledge, this is one of the first studies to directly examine differences in perceptions of current analgesic/anti-inflammatory prescriptions between African Americans and Caucasians. This is important, since perceptions of medication efficacy reflect adequacy of pain control and may also contribute to medication adherence.