Racial/ethnic Disparities In The Receipt Of Prescriptions For Antidiabetic Medications By Non-institutionalized Individuals Diagnosed With Diabetes
Background An ongoing public policy concern in the United States is disparities in health care for racial/ethnic minority populations. The National Healthcare Disparities Report (NHDR) addresses these disparities for chronic diseases such as diabetes that impose economic and health burdens on society that need to be partly managed by health care policies. One understudied aspect of diabetes care is racial/ethnic disparities in the pharmacological management of the disease. Objective The objective of this study was to determine whether racial/ethnic disparities exist in the pharmacological treatment of diabetes, and if so, how do individual characteristics such as socioeconomic status (SES) influence the differences. Methods This study used national survey data collected through the 2010 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey (MEPS). Racial/ethnic disparities in diabetes treatment were examined using a methodology based on the Institute of Medicine (IOM) definition of disparity that adjusts for health status factors while allowing SES factors to mediate differences. The effects of independent variables on receipt of antidiabetic medication prescriptions among individuals who self-reported a diagnosis of diabetes were examined. Regression analyses were performed on unadjusted data and on data transformed by a rank-and-replace method to approximate the IOM definition. Results Among 1,844 survey respondents with self-reported diabetes, significant differences were found for race/ethnicity, education, health insurance, and the co-morbidities of heart disease and eye problems/retinopathy. Race/ethnicity was a significant predictor of the receipt of antidiabetic prescriptions, with Hispanics being more than 2 times as likely as non-Hispanic whites to have received a prescription. This difference was magnified in the IOM model that controlled for health status. In the IOM model, no significant differences were observed between non-Hispanic whites and non-Hispanic blacks or other minorities. Having health insurance, higher education, or eye problems/retinopathy were also significant predictors of receiving antidiabetic prescriptions. Conclusion Using a methodology that adjusts for factors related to health status while allowing factors related to SES to mediate racial/ethnic differences, disparities were observed between non-Hispanic whites and minorities, particularly Hispanics, in the likelihood of receiving a prescription for antidiabetic medication. The agreement of these results with the few studies on the pharmacological management of diabetes is mixed, and suggests the need for additional studies. Application of a rigorous definition of racial/ethnic disparities and the implementation of methodologies that adjust for health status while allowing mediation by SES factors are needed to address important gaps in the treatment of diabetes.