A cohort of 434 African American and 1,471 Caucasian diabetes patients was followed for a period of 18 months from 6/1/2006 through 11/30/2007. All patients were being treated in one of 6 primary care clinics within a large mid-western medical group. First and last A1c values were collected during the study period and an A1c change score was calculated. Patients were also classified as to whether English was their primary language and whether they were on medical assistance at any time during the study period. The presence of a medication adjustment was tracked for metformin, thiazolidinediones, sulfonylureas (initiation or titration) and insulins (initiation only). Medication adjustment data was from the prescribing data in the medical record and
thus represents physician actions.
There was a significant difference between African Americans and Caucasians on their initial A1c values (8.2% vs 7.3%; p<0.0001). Adjusted for the initial A1c, mean number of visits was similar between the two groups (16.9 vs. 15.8, p=.50). When change in A1c was calculated while controlling for initial A1c African Americans had less than half the decline found in Caucasians (.20% vs .45%; p=0.0009). English as a primary language (p=.81) and medical assistance (p=.81) status were not related to the disparity in change value. Examination of medication adjustment for African Americans relative to Caucasians found that they were less likely to have adjustments of metformin (OR .69; p=.0021) and TZDs (OR .65; p=.0122) but no differences were found for Sulfonylureas (p=.49) or insulins (p=.30).
This study suggests that part of the racial disparity in glucose control is related to physician orders for medication intensification. This indicates a need for better understanding of the reasons for medication adjustment disparities and effective interventions to reduce them.
While it is well documented that disparities exist across racial groups of diabetes patients relative to glucose control, the underlying causative factors are not well understood. The purpose of this study was to examine differences in physician orders for adjustments of glucose control medications in diabetes patients between African Americans and Caucasians.