A new study, by the American Academy of Neurology, finds racial disparities when it comes to access to medications for dementia, with Black people receiving fewer prescriptions. File photo by Julio César Velásquez Mejía
Feb. 27 (UPI) -- A new study finds racial disparities when it comes to access to medications for dementia, with Black people receiving fewer prescriptions.
The preliminary study, released Sunday by the American Academy of Neurology, compared prescriptions for five different dementia medications and found Black people consistently received less access to each medication compared to White people.
"Previous research has shown that due to racial disparities, people with dementia do not always receive the same access to medications that may be beneficial in nursing homes and hospitals," said Dr. Alice Hawkins, of Mount Sinai in New York.
The study, which involved 25,930 people, asked participants about their race and their medications. Out of the group, 3,655 were Black and 12,885 were White.
Researchers found for those who took cholinesterase inhibitors, which help with memory and thought, only 20% of Black people received a prescription compared to 30% of White people.
For N-methyl-D-aspartate, or NMDA antagonists, which can help with cognitive function, only 10% of Black patients received prescriptions compared to 17% of White patients. However, researchers said the numbers for both medications changed if the prescriber was a neurologist.
"Black people who saw a neurologist were receiving cholinesterase inhibitors and NMDA antagonists at rates more comparable to White people," said Hawkins. "Therefore, referrals to specialists such as neurologists may decrease the disparities for these prescriptions."
Researchers also found a disparity in the prescription rate for selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, or SSRIs, used to treat depression, with 24% of Black people receiving a prescription compared to 40% of White people.
The study found the percentage of Black people prescribed antipsychotics, to treat psychosis, was 18% compared to 22% of White people.
And for benzodiazepines, to treat anxiety and agitation, the gap widened with only 18% of Black people receiving a prescription compared to 37% of White people.
In a similar study last year, researchers found Black patients with brain tumors were also less likely to have surgery recommended to them than White patients. The findings, published in The Lancet, were part of an issue on racial disparities in healthcare globally.
Researchers admit that these recent findings, which will be presented in April at the American Academy of Neurology's 75th Annual Meeting in Boston, are limited.
"There is limited data for the use of dementia medications that people take at home. Our study found disparities in this area, as well," Hawkins said.
"We hope our findings lead to a better understanding of these disparities so that steps can be taken to eliminate this health inequity."