Objective — To examine the association between socioeconomic status, as indicated by neighborhood median income levels, and physician drug selection between older, less expensive generic drugs and newer, more expensive brand-name drugs for elderly patients initiating drug therapy in a universal healthcare system.
Methods — We conducted a population-based, retrospective, cross-sectional study. Using healthcare administrative databases, we assessed the medication profiles of 128 314 patients from more than 1.4 million residents of Ontario > or =65 years old initiating antipsychotic, hydroxymethylglutaryl-coenzyme A reductase inhibitor (statin), or ocular beta-blocker drug therapy from January 1, 1998, through December 31, 1999. We examined the selection of older generic drugs relative to newer brand-name agents for patients in each of 5 income quintiles.
Results — Overall, brand-name drug prescribing modestly increased with increasing income quintile after adjusting for patient age and gender (61.2% in the lowest income quintile vs. 64.1% in the highest income quintile; p value for trend < 0.001). Significant risk ratios comparing the highest with the lowest income-quintile patients were observed for selection of newer, brand-name antipsychotics (RR 1.14; 95% CI 1.06 to 1.23), older generic statins (RR 0.86; 95% CI 0.77 to 0.95), and newer, brand-name ocular beta-blockers (RR 1.13; 95% CI 1.02 to 1.25).
Conclusions — This study suggests that income-related differences in treatment selection by physicians may exist. The reasons for these differences and subsequent impact on health outcomes warrant further investigation.
Social determinants of health
Drug prescribing behaviour
Geriatrics and aging