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Blacks report greater difficulty in affording prescription medications than whites

Research Activities, March 2009, No. 343

Blacks report far more difficulty in affording prescription medications than whites, even after accounting for income, education, health insurance status, and coexisting medical conditions, according to a new study. Blacks were twice as likely as whites to not fill a medication prescription (50 vs. 25 percent) and were far more likely to report inadequate income to meet basic needs (61 vs. 17 percent). Most of the differences attributed to race/ethnicity were mediated by perceived income inadequacy. Furthermore, the inability of blacks to afford prescription medications may be better predicted by perceived income inadequacy than more traditional measures of socioeconomic status such as income, education, and insurance status.

Researchers at the Center for Education and Research on Therapeutics of Musculoskeletal Diseases at the University of Alabama at Birmingham recruited black and white elderly patients from 48 Alabama primary care practices. The patients were asked about their ability to pay for prescription medications, insurance and socioeconomic status, and coexisting medical conditions.

Of 399 participating patients, 53 percent had an annual household income of less than $15,000. Those who reported not filling a medication during the past year due to cost were more likely to be black, have more coexisting medical conditions, have lower socioeconomic status, and consider their income inadequate to meet basic needs compared to those without problems affording medications. Perceived income inadequacy may serve as a valuable marker for targeting medication access programs, suggest the researchers. Their study was supported by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS10389).

See "Effect of racial differences on ability to afford prescription medications," by Daniel J. Cobaugh, Pharm.D., Erik Angner, Ph.D., Catarina I. Kiefe, Ph.D., M.D., and others, in the November 15, 2008, American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy 65, pp. 2137-2143.

Current as of March 2009
Internet Citation: Blacks report greater difficulty in affording prescription medications than whites: Research Activities, March 2009, No. 343. March 2009. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD. http://archive.ahrq.gov/news/newsletters/research-activities/mar09/0309RA4.html