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Research suggests that minorities are less likely to be prescribed newer diabetes medications than their White counterparts of similar socioeconomic status and diabetes management.

As of 2021, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved nearly 60 drugs for treating Type 2 Diabetes, and almost 100 additional antidiabetic agents were evaluated in clinical trials1. Despite the number of available medications, there is low use initiation in minority populations for new diabetes medication.

Look AHEAD (Action for Health in Diabetes) is a trial of an intensive lifestyle intervention for adults with type 2 diabetes. Researchers studied participants during the period when newer diabetes medication classes became available in the U.S. market2. Their analysis found that “…individuals of all minority race/ethnicities had lower initiation of use of newer diabetes medications compared to white individuals and initiation of newer diabetes medications was significantly lower for black and American Indian or Alaskan Native individuals.”2 This trend was independent of socioeconomic status and clinical factors, such as the intensity of diabetes management. Although income had an inverse association, other factors beyond medication cost contributed to lower medication initiation in minority groups.

The researchers found significant differences in newer diabetes medication initiation based on the participants’ primary source of medical care. Participants receiving care from hospital-affiliated clinics or community health centers had lower initiation than those receiving care from a private doctor’s office. The authors acknowledged that further study is needed to understand what additional factors are influencing the decreased rates of use and hypothesized that differences in insurance coverage, provider treatment patterns, and patient preference could also be factors.

The study findings suggest that minorities are less likely to be initially prescribed newer diabetes medications than their White counterparts of similar socioeconomic status and diabetes management. Lack of newer, effective medication use can adversely affect minority patient outcomes, increasing mortality rates, and co-morbidity effects. Increasing health equity in minority populations includes making medications available by increasing patient health literacy about medication options and benefits and being proactive with healthcare administrators and providers.

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Dahlén, A. D., Dashi, G., Maslov, I., Attwood, M. M., Jonsson, J., Trukhan, V., & Schiöth, H. B. (2021). Trends in Antidiabetic Drug Discovery: FDA Approved Drugs, New Drugs in Clinical Trials and Global Sales. Front Pharmacol, 12, 807548. doi:10.3389/fphar.2021.807548

Elhussein, A., Anderson, A., Bancks, M. P., Coday, M., Knowler, W. C., Peters, A., . . . Pilla, S. (2022). Racial/ethnic and socioeconomic disparities in the use of newer diabetes medications in the Look AHEAD study. Lancet Reg Health Am, 6. doi:10.1016/j.lana.2021.100111

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