Minority Children Last to Get New Asthma Technologies

Study of steroid inhalers finds black and Hispanic kids waited longest

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FRIDAY, Dec. 23, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Asthma inhalers with steroid medications were much less likely to be prescribed to minority patients and children during the first few years after they were introduced in United States in the 1980s, says a study by researchers at the Massachusetts General Hospital Institute for Health Policy.

Minorities may have more limited access to specialists who prescribed these new devices, and they may also be less able to afford them, the researchers speculated.

As well, "children often do no get access to new technologies because drug manufacturers may not invest in the trials required to demonstrate safety and effectiveness in children," study author Dr. Timothy Ferris said in a prepared statement.

"When you put these factors together, it appears that the minority children were the last to benefit from this effective medication," he said.

His team analyzed data from the National Ambulatory Medical Survey from 1989 to 1998, and identified nearly 3,700 asthma-related patient visits to doctors. They looked at whether asthma inhalers were prescribed or administered during those visits and also reviewed information about the patients' age and race/ethnicity.

The study found that during the first two years studied, minority patients were less than half as likely to receive asthma inhalers as non-minority patients.

The overall difference between minority and non-minority patients was resolved by the mid-1990s. However, that equalization was a reflection of increased use of asthma inhalers by black Americans. The low prescription rate for asthma inhalers for Hispanic Americans remained virtually unchanged.

The study also found that children were significantly less likely than adults to be prescribed asthma inhalers.

The findings appear in the January issue of Medical Care.

More information

The American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology has more about asthma and allergy medications.

SOURCE: Massachusetts General Hospital, news release, Dec. 23, 2005

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