From the Journals

Acne treatment may vary based on race, gender, insurance



Systemic acne treatments may be underused in non-Hispanic black patients, women, and Medicaid patients, based on findings from a retrospective, cohort study of 29,928 individuals with acne.

“Our findings suggest the presence of racial/ethnic, sex, and insurance-based disparities in health care use and treatment for acne and raise particular concern for undertreatment among racial/ethnic minority and female patients,” John S. Barbieri, MD, a dermatology research fellow at the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, and colleagues wrote in a study published in JAMA Dermatology.

Data from previous studies have suggested racial disparities in the management of several dermatologic conditions, including atopic dermatitis and psoriasis, but associations between social demographics and prescribing patterns have not been well studied for acne treatment, the authors noted.

For the current study, the researchers used deidentified data from the Optum electronic health record from Jan. 1, 2007 to June 30, 2017. In all, 29,928 patients aged 15-35 years and who were being treated for acne were included in the study. Of that total, 64% were women, 8% were non-Hispanic black and 68% were white, with the remaining patients grouped as non-Hispanic Asian, Hispanic, or other.

Non-Hispanic black patients were significantly more likely to be seen by a dermatologist, compared with non-Hispanic white patients, who were designated as the reference (odds ratio, 1.20). However, the black patients were less likely to receive prescriptions for any acne medication (incidence rate ratio, 0.89).

Non-Hispanic black patients were more likely than non-Hispanic white patients to be prescribed topical retinoids or topical antibiotics (OR, 1.25 and 1.35, respectively). They were also were less likely than their white counterparts to be prescribed oral antibiotics, spironolactone, and isotretinoin (OR, 0.80, 0.68, and 0.39, respectively).

Overall, men were more than twice as likely as women to receive prescriptions for isotretinoin (OR, 2.44). They were also more likely to receive prescriptions for the other treatments, but the differences were not as high as those for isotretinoin.

In addition, patients with Medicaid insurance were significantly less likely than those with commercial insurance (the reference) to see a dermatologist (OR, 0.46). Medicaid patients also were less likely to be prescribed topical retinoids, oral antibiotics, spironolactone, or isotretinoin (OR, 0.82, 0.87, 0.50, and 0.43, respectively).

The study findings were limited by several factors, among them, the use of automated pharmacy data without confirmation that patients had picked up the medications they had been prescribed, the researchers said. The study also lacked data on acne severity, clinical outcomes, and the use of over-the-counter acne treatments.

“Further study is needed to confirm our findings, provide understanding of the reasons for these potential disparities, and develop strategies to ensure equitable care for patients with acne,” the researchers concluded.

The study was supported in part by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases of the National Institutes of Health, and by a Pfizer Fellowship in Dermatology Patient Oriented Research grant to the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania. Dr. Barbieri had no financial conflicts to disclose. One of the study coauthors disclosed relationships with Pfizer, Eli Lilly, and Novartis.

SOURCE: Barbieri JS et al. JAMA Dermatol. 2020 Feb 5. doi: 10.1001/jamadermatol.2019.4818.

Next Article: