/publications/issue/2006/2006-03/2006-03-5333

Race Is a Factor in Receiving Treatment

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Minority patients were less likely to be prescribed asthma inhalers with steroid medication in the first 2 years after these inhalers were introduced in the 1980s, suggested the results of a study reported in Medical Care (January 2006). Researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital Institute for Health Policy hypothesized that minorities may have had limited access to specialists who prescribed these new devices, as well as lack of money to afford them.

For the study, the investigators assessed data from the National Ambulatory Medical Survey from 1989 to 1998. They identified 3700 asthma-related patient visits to physicians. The researchers focused on whether asthma inhalers were prescribed or used during those visits; they also noted information about the patients' age and race/ethnicity. The findings indicated that, during the first 2 years, minority patients were 50% less likely to receive asthma inhalers, compared with nonminority patients.

A shift was seen in the mid 1990s between minority patients and nonminority patients. The change, however, was a reflection of increased use of asthma inhalers by African Americans. In Hispanic Americans, the low prescription rate for asthma inhalers remained unchanged.The findings also revealed that children were considerably less likely to be prescribed inhalers, compared with adults.