Associations Between Immigrant Status and Pharmacological Treatments for Diabetes in U.S. Adults

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Objectives: Although treatment disparities in diabetes have been documented along racial/ethnic lines, it is unclear if immigrant groups in the United States experience similar treatment disparities. Our objective was to determine whether immigrant status is associated with differences in pharmacological treatment of diabetes in a nationally representative sample of adults with diabetes. We were specifically interested in differences in treatment with oral hypoglycemic agents (OHA) and insulin. Method: Respondents were 2,260 adults from National Health and Nutritional Examination Survey (NHANES) 2003–2012 with a self-reported diabetes diagnosis. Immigrant status was indicated by birth within (U.S.-born) or outside (foreign-born) the 50 U.S. States or Washington, DC. Multinomial logistic regression analyses examined associations between immigrant status and (a) treatment with OHAs only and (b) treatment with insulin only or insulin and OHA combination therapy, using no treatment as the reference group. Results: Adjusting for demographics, diabetes severity and duration, cardiovascular disease (CVD), and CVD risk factors, being foreign-born versus U.S.-born was not associated with treatment with OHAs only (odds ratio [OR] = 1.59; 95% confidence interval [CI] [0.97, 2.60]). However, being foreign-born was associated with decreased odds (OR = 0.53; 95% CI [0.28, 0.99]) of treatment with insulin. Conclusions: Pharmacological treatment of diabetes differs along immigrant status lines. To understand these findings, studies capturing the processes underlying treatment differences in diabetes among immigrants are needed. Findings raise the possibility that integrating information about a patient’s immigrant status, in addition to racial/ethnic identity, may be an important component of culturally sensitive diabetes care.

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