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Enhancing Hispanics' access to medications through increased Medicaid eligibility may improve their use of antihypertensives

Previous studies have shown that young Hispanic adults with high blood pressure (hypertension) are less likely to take antihypertensive medication than their white or black peers. A recent study has found the same pattern among elderly Hispanics with hypertension. Among hypertensive adults in Texas who were 77 years of age or older, Hispanic ethnicity, unlike black ethnicity, was associated with 59 percent lower use of antihypertensive drugs, even after adjustment for age, sex, household income, and other factors.

Characteristics associated with lower use of antihypertensive drugs included older age and low income in whites, poor cognition and infrequent doctor visits in blacks, and lack of Medicaid insurance in Hispanics. Enhancing Hispanics' access to prescription medications through increased Medicaid eligibility may be one way to improve their use of antihypertensive medication, suggest the University of Texas researchers who conducted the study. Their work was supported in part by the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (HS11618).

The researchers conducted in-home interviews in 1997 and 1998 in which they assessed blood pressure and antihypertensive medication use in 281 patients who reported having hypertension or had a systolic blood pressure of 140 mm Hg or higher and/or diastolic blood pressure of 90 mm Hg or higher. Of the population evaluated, 63 percent of whites, 60 percent of blacks, and 45 percent of Hispanics with hypertension were on antihypertensive medications.

More details are in "Ethnic differences in antihypertensive medication use in the elderly," by Mukaila A. Raji, M.D., M.Sc., Yong-Fang Kuo, Ph.D., Joel A. Salazar, M.D., and others, in the February 2004 Annals of Pharmacotherapy 38, pp. 209-214.

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