Black Arthritis Patients Get Less Powerful Drugs

man red joint pain
Blacks with rheumatoid arthritis are only half as likely to be prescribed more effective drugs that may prevent further joint damage and disability, according to a new study published in the journal Arthritis Care & Research.

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For the study, researchers surveyed 5,385 rheumatoid arthritis Medicaid patients between ages 50 and 70 in California who were being treated with at least one anti-rheumatic drug between 1998 and 2005. Scientists reviewed participants’ records to identify any differences in the way patients from different racial and ethnic groups were being prescribed anti-arthritis medication, despite similar income level and arthritis severity.

In addition, researchers determined if patients were prescribed the more potent, biologic disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs), or the less powerful standard DMARDs.

Study findings revealed only 9 percent of African-American patients (compared with 16 percent of white patients) were prescribed the more powerful biologic DMARDs, marketed as Enbrel and Humira. What’s more, 20 percent of Latino patients were prescribed biologics, but this group typically had more severe joint pain and inactivity than whites.