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title pic Study: Race and Medicaid is a Factor in Who’s Prescribed Antidepressants

Posted by Deborah Pujoue on April 26, 2012

Study: Race and Medicaid is a Factor in Whose Prescribed Antidepressants

According to a new study, race may play a role in which depressed patients will be prescribed antidepressant medications (including Celexa, Zoloft and Prozac). This study was conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan’s School of Public Health.

What the researchers discovered during the study is that African-Americans and Hispanics with major depressive disorders are less likely to receive a prescription for antidepressants than Caucasian patients with the same condition. That is not all the study found, either; researchers also found that patients in receipt of Medicare and Medicaid also had a lower chance of being prescribed the latest in antidepressant medications.

When conducting their research, the team monitored the prescription patterns from 1993 to 2007 in an effort to find out how doctors decide who to prescribe antidepressant to. Specifically, the researchers checked to see who was getting the drugs and which medications were being prescribed. They learned that “race, payment source, physician ownership status and geographical region influenced whether physicians decided to prescribe antidepressants in the first place.”

While the study revealed that Caucasians were prescribed antidepressants 1.52 times more than the minority patients, their race had nothing to do with which drugs they were being given.

Of the study results, Rajesh Balkrishnan, Ph.D., principal investigator and associate director for Research and Education, University of Michigan Center for Global Health, says, “This study confirmed previous findings that sociological factors, such as race and ethnicity, and patient health insurance status, influence physician prescribing behaviors. This is true in particular for major depressive disorder treatment.”

At first glance, this study shows an egregious prescription practice. But it is also a blessing in disguise for patients who are considering taking these medications while pregnant since these drugs (Prozac, Zoloft, Celexa and Paxil) have been proven to cause birth defects (PPHN, oral clefts and neural tube defects) in babies exposed to the drug in-utero. To make things even worse, these drugs have also been shown to cause some patients to suffer from aggressive and suicidal thoughts and behaviors while on the drugs. In the end, some research is even showing that these drugs don’t help cure depression any better than placebos or diet and exercise anyway. For all of that, the patients being overlooked by doctors may be able to consider themselves lucky.

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