Journal of General Internal Medicine

, Volume 25, Issue 3, pp 228–234 | Cite as

Racial Disparities in the Quality of Medication Use in Older Adults: Baseline Findings from a Longitudinal Study

  • Mary T. Roth
  • Denise A. Esserman
  • Jena L. Ivey
  • Morris Weinberger
Original Article



Medication-related problems are prevalent in older adults and adversely affect the quality of care. It has been suggested that racial differences exist in medication use. Most efforts to evaluate the quality of medication use target specific drugs or disease states, or a set of pre-defined quality indicators, rather than the patient.


We conducted a prospective cohort study to determine the prevalence and types of medication-related problems in older adults, examining the impact of race on quality medication use.


In-home interviews and medical record reviews of 200 (100 white, 100 black) older adults were conducted three times over 1 year. The quality of medication use was measured using a clinical pharmacist’s assessment of quality and the Assessing Care of Vulnerable Elders quality indicators. We used logistic and negative binomial regression models to analyze the two primary endpoints of prevalence and number of medication-related problems.


Mean age was 78.3 (whites) and 75.5 (blacks), with the majority being female. Although whites used more medications than blacks (11.6 versus 9.7; p < 0.01), blacks had more medication-related problems per person than whites (6.2 versus 4.9; p < 0.01). All patients had at least one medication-related problem; undertreatment, suboptimal drug, suboptimal dosing, and nonadherence were most prevalent. Blacks had significantly higher rates of nonadherence than whites (68% versus 42%; p < 0.01).


Medication-related problems are prevalent in community-residing older adults. Blacks had more medication-related problems than whites, including higher rates of nonadherence. These findings require further study to better understand racial disparities in quality medication use.


quality medications race disparities elderly 


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Copyright information

© Society of General Internal Medicine 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mary T. Roth
    • 1
  • Denise A. Esserman
    • 2
  • Jena L. Ivey
    • 3
  • Morris Weinberger
    • 4
  1. 1.Division of Pharmaceutical Outcomes and PolicyUNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy, University of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  2. 2.Division of General Medicine and Clinical Epidemiology, School of Medicine and Department of BiostatisticsUNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  3. 3.Division of Pharmacy Practice and Experiential EducationUNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy, University of North Carolina at Chapel HillChapel HillUSA
  4. 4.Department of Health Policy and ManagementUNC Gillings School of Global Public Health, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, North Carolina and Senior Career Scientist, Durham VAMC Center for Health Services ResearchDurhamUSA

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