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Kaiser Permanente Spotlight: Not All Adults Newly Diagnosed With Diabetes Equally Likely To Start Treatment

From Kaiser Permanente Spotlight: For adults newly diagnosed with diabetes, getting blood sugar levels under control is the first goal. Guidelines recommend diabetes medications to help patients meet their target blood sugar range. Yet a new Kaiser Permanente study found that adults of certain racial and ethnic groups are less likely to start medication within the first year of diagnosis. “We know there are race and ethnic disparities in diabetes-related health outcomes and that many factors contribute to these differences,” said the study’s co-lead author Anjali Gopalan, MD, MS, a research scientist at the Division of Research and a senior physician with The Permanente Medical Group. “With our growing awareness of the lasting benefits of early glycemic control, and the important role of medications in lowering blood sugar levels, we wanted to look at whether there are differences in early medication initiation by race and ethnicity — and there are.” The study, published August 4 in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, included 77,199 members of Kaiser Permanente Northern California newly diagnosed with type 2 diabetes between 2005 and 2016. The researchers used the patient’s electronic medical records to determine if they were dispensed any diabetes medication during the year following their diagnosis. Self-reported race and ethnicity information was used to separate the members into 12 groups. The study showed that, overall, 47% (36,283) of the adults started a glucose-lowering medication during the first year following their diagnosis. However, initiation rates varied widely by group: 32% of Chinese adults and 35% of Japanese adults started taking a diabetes medication compared to 44% of white adults, 50% of Black adults, 56% of Hispanic/Latinx adults, and 58% of individuals of other racial or ethnic groups. “Seeing that Black and Latinx adults had higher than average initiation rates intrigued us because, overall, these groups tend to have higher rates of diabetes-related complications,” said Gopalan. “Our findings also suggest we need to better understand the factors that may be keeping Chinese and Japanese adults from starting medication after their initial diagnosis.” Read more at Kaiser Permanente Spotlight.

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