Minorities, Medicare Recipients Less Likely to Get Antidepressants

MONDAY, April 9 (HealthDay News) -- Hispanics and blacks are less likely to be prescribed antidepressants than whites, and Medicare and Medicaid patients are less likely to receive the drugs than those with private insurance, a new study says.

University of Michigan School of Public Health researchers examined data from 1993 to 2007 and found that whites were 1.5 times more likely to receive antidepressants than blacks or Hispanics with major depression.

The study also found that Medicare and Medicaid patients were 31 percent and 38 percent less likely to be prescribed antidepressants than privately insured patients.

Race didn't play a role in the type of antidepressants prescribed to patients, but insurance did. Medicare and Medicaid patients were 58 percent and 61 percent less likely to receive newer antidepressants than privately insured patients.

Newer types of antidepressants such as serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) are considered the first-line drug treatments for major depression. Older types of antidepressants tend to cause more side effects.

"This study confirmed previous findings that sociological factors, such as race and ethnicity, and patient health insurance status, influence physician prescribing behaviors," principal investigator Rajesh Balkrishnan, an associate professor in the school of public health, said in a university news release.

The study was published online recently in the International Journal of Psychiatry in Medicine.

The findings show the need for "policy makers to design interventions to improve physician practice guidelines adherence," Balkrishnan said. "This will help eliminate unnecessary variations among physician practices and ... obtain optimal health care for patients."

More information

The U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality has more about antidepressants.

SOURCE: University of Michigan, news release, April 4, 2012

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