Ethnic disparities in initiation and intensification of diabetes treatment in adults with type 2 diabetes in the UK, 1990-2017: A cohort study.PLoS Med. 2020 05; 17(5):e1003106.PM
Type 2 diabetes mellitus (T2DM) disproportionately affects individuals of nonwhite ethnic origin. Timely and appropriate initiation and intensification of glucose-lowering therapy is key to reducing the risk of major vascular outcomes. Given that ethnic inequalities in outcomes may stem from differences in therapeutic management, the aim of this study was to identify ethnic differences in the timeliness of initiation and intensification of glucose-lowering therapy in individuals newly diagnosed with T2DM in the United Kingdom.
METHODS AND FINDINGS
An observational cohort study using the Clinical Practice Research Datalink was conducted using 162,238 adults aged 18 and over diagnosed with T2DM between 1990 and 2017 (mean age 62.7 years, 55.2% male); 93% were of white ethnicity (n = 150,754), 5% were South Asian (n = 8,139), and 2.1% were black (n = 3,345). Ethnic differences in time to initiation and intensification of diabetes treatment were estimated at three time points (initiation of noninsulin monotherapy, intensification to noninsulin combination therapy, and intensification to insulin therapy) using multivariable Cox proportional hazards regression adjusted for factors a priori hypothesised to be associated with initiation and intensification: age, sex, deprivation, glycated haemoglobin (HbA1c), body mass index (BMI), smoking status, comorbidities, consultations, medications, calendar year, and clustering by practice. Odds of experiencing therapeutic inertia (failure to intensify treatment within 12 months of HbA1c >7.5% [58 mmol/mol]), were estimated using multivariable logistic regression adjusted for the same hypothesised confounders. Noninsulin monotherapy was initiated earlier in South Asian and black groups (South Asian HR 1.21, 95% CI 1.08-1.36, p < 0.001; black HR 1.29, 95% CI 1.05-1.59, p = 0.017). Correspondingly, no ethnic differences in therapeutic inertia were evident at initiation. Intensification with noninsulin combination therapy was slower in both nonwhite ethnic groups relative to white (South Asian HR 0.80, 95% CI 0.74-0.87, p < 0.001; black HR 0.79, 95% CI 0.70-0.90, p < 0.001); treatment inertia at this stage was greater in nonwhite groups relative to white (South Asian odds ratio [OR] 1.45, 95% CI 1.23-1.70, p < 0.001; black OR 1.43, 95% CI 1.09-1.87, p = 0.010). Intensification to insulin therapy was slower again for black groups relative to white groups (South Asian HR 0.49, 95% CI 0.41-0.58, p < 0.001; black HR 0.69, 95% CI 0.53-0.89, p = 0.012); correspondingly, treatment inertia was significantly higher in nonwhite groups at this stage relative to white groups (South Asian OR 2.68, 95% CI 1.89-3.80 p < 0.001; black OR 1.82, 95% CI 1.13-2.79, p = 0.013). At both stages of treatment intensification, nonwhite groups had fewer HbA1c measurements than white groups. Limitations included variable quality and completeness of routinely recorded data and a lack of information on medication adherence.
In this large UK cohort, we found persuasive evidence that South Asian and black groups intensified to noninsulin combination therapy and insulin therapy more slowly than white groups and experienced greater therapeutic inertia following identification of uncontrolled HbA1c. Reasons for delays are multifactorial and may, in part, be related to poorer long-term monitoring of risk factors in nonwhite groups. Initiatives to improve timely and appropriate intensification of diabetes treatment are key to reducing disparities in downstream vascular outcomes in these populations.