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Socioeconomic status, sex, age and access to medications for COPD in Ontario, Canada

Gershon A, Campitelli MA, Hwee J, Croxford R, To T, Stanbrook MB, Upshur R, Stephenson A, Stukel TA. COPD. 2015; 12(6):668-79. Epub 2015 Aug 5.


Disparities in COPD health outcomes have been found with older individuals, men and those of lower socioeconomic status doing worse. We sought to determine if this was due to differences in access to COPD medications. We conducted a retrospective cohort study using population health administrative data from Ontario, Canada, a province with universal prescription drug coverage for older adults. All individuals with COPD aged 67 years and older in 2008 who were not taking inhaled long-acting bronchodilators or inhaled corticosteroids were followed for 2 years. Poisson regression was used to determine the effects of age, sex, and socioeconomic status on the likelihood of initiating one of these medications, after adjusting for potential confounders. Over the study period, 54,050 of 185,698 (29.1%) older individuals with COPD not previously taking any inhaled long-acting bronchodilators or corticosteroids were initiated on one or more of these medications. After adjustment, individuals of low socioeconomic status, measured using neighborhood income level quintiles, were slightly more likely to initiate COPD medications than those of high socioeconomic status (relative risk (RR) 1.05; 95% confidence interval (95% CI) 1.02-1.08). While men received COPD medication at a consistent rate across all age groups, the likelihood that a woman received medication decreased with increasing age. With the exception of older women, there was minimal disparity in prescription for COPD medications. Disparity in health outcomes among Ontario COPD patients is not clearly explained by differences in medication access by socioeconomic status, sex or age.

Keywords: Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease Social determinants of health Drugs (respiratory)

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