Black patients may be significantly less likely to receive eradication testing after treatment for Helicobacter pylori infection than patients of other races/ethnic groups, based on a retrospective analysis of more than 1,700 individuals.
This disparity may exacerbate the already increased burden of H. pylori infection and gastric cancer among Black individuals, according to principal author David A. Leiman, MD, MSHP, of Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C.
“H. pylori infection disproportionately affects racial/ethnic minorities and those of lower socioeconomic status,” Dr. Leiman, coauthor Julius Wilder, MD, PhD, of Duke University in Durham, and colleagues wrote in their abstract presented at the annual meeting of the American College of Gastroenterology. “ACG guidelines recommend treatment for H. pylori infection followed by confirmation of cure. Adherence to these recommendations varies and its impact on practice patterns is unclear. This study characterizes the management of H. pylori infection and predictors of guideline adherence.”
The investigators analyzed electronic medical records from 1,711 patients diagnosed with H. pylori infection through the Duke University Health System between June 2016 and June 2018, most often (71%) via serum antibody test. Approximately two-thirds of those diagnosed were non-White (66%) and female (63%). Out of 1,711 patients, 622 (36%) underwent eradication testing, of whom 559 (90%) were cured.
Despite publication of the ACG H. pylori guideline midway through the study (February 2017), testing rates dropped significantly from 43.1% in 2016 to 35.9% in 2017, and finally 25.5% in 2018 (P < .0001).
“These findings are consistent with other work that has shown low rates of testing to confirm cure in patients treated for H. pylori,” Dr. Leiman said. “There remains a disappointingly low number of patients who are tested for cure.”
Across the entire study period, patients were significantly more likely to undergo eradication testing if they were treated in the gastroenterology department (52.4%), compared with rates ranging from 33% to 34.6% for internal medicine, family medicine, and other departments (P < .001).
Across all departments, Black patients underwent eradication testing significantly less often than patients of other races/ethnicities, at a rate of 30.5% versus 32.2% for White patients, 35.1% for Asian patients, and 36.7% for patients who were of other backgrounds (P < .001). Compared with White patients, Black patients were 38% less likely to undergo eradication testing (odds ratio, 0.62; 95% confidence interval, 0.48-0.79).
Dr. Leiman noted that these findings contrast with a study by Dr. Shria Kumar and colleagues from earlier this year, which found no racial disparity in eradication testing within a Veterans Health Affairs cohort.
“Black patients are significantly less likely to undergo testing for eradication than [patients of other races/ethnicities],” Dr. Leiman said. “More work is needed to understand the mechanisms driving this disparity.” He suggested a number of possible contributing factors, including provider knowledge gaps, fragmented care, and social determinants of health.
“It is clear that a greater emphasis on characterizing and addressing the social determinants of health, including poverty, education, and location, are needed,” Dr. Leiman said. “Although health systems are not solely responsible for the known and ongoing observations of disparities in care, interventions must be identified and implemented to mitigate these issues.” Such interventions would likely require broad participation, he said, including policy makers, health systems, and individual practitioners.
“We plan to perform a prospective mixed methods study to contextualize which social determinants are associated with a decreased likelihood of receiving appropriate eradication testing by exploring barriers at patient, practitioner, and health-system levels,” Dr. Leiman said. “Ultimately, we aim to leverage these findings to develop an evidence-based intervention to circumnavigate those identified barriers, thereby eliminating the observed disparities in H. pylori care.”
According to Gregory L. Hall, MD, of Northeast Ohio Medical University, Rootstown, and Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, and codirector of the Partnership for Urban Health Research, Atlanta, the higher rate of H. pylori infection in Black individuals may stem partly from genetic factors.
“Studies have shown that African Americans with a higher proportion of African ancestry have higher rates of H. pylori, suggesting a genetic component to this increased risk,” he said.
Still, Dr. Hall, who is the author of the book Patient-Centered Clinical Care for African Americans, went on to emphasize appropriate H. pylori management and recognition of racial disparities in medicine.
“The ability to test for, treat, and confirm eradication of H. pylori infections represents a great opportunity to improve quality of life through decreased gastritis, gastric ulcers, and gastric cancer,” he said. “[The present findings] show yet another disparity in our clinical care of African Americans that needs increased awareness among providers to these communities.”
Rotonya Carr, MD, of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, and lead author of a recent publication addressing racism and health disparities in gastroenterology, said the findings of the present study add weight to a known equity gap.
“These data are concerning in view of the twofold higher prevalence of H. pylori seropositivity and twofold higher incidence of gastric cancer in Black patients, compared with White patients,” Dr. Carr said. “These and other data support a comprehensive approach to reduce GI disparities that includes targeted education of both GI specialists and referring providers.”
According to Dr. Leiman, individual practitioners may work toward more equitable outcomes through a comprehensive clinical approach, regardless of patient race or ethnicity.
“Clinicians should consider H. pylori therapy an episode of care that spans diagnosis, treatment, and confirmation of cure,” he said. “Closing the loop in that episode by ensuring eradication is vital to conforming with best practices, and to reduce patients’ long-term risks.”The investigators disclosed relationships with Exact Sciences, Guardant Health, and Phathom Pharmaceuticals. Dr. Hall and Dr. Carr reported no relevant conflicts of interest.
SOURCE: Reichstein J et al. ACG 2020. Abstract S1332.