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Improving prescriptions for people from ethnic minorities

Project summary

Ethnic differences in prescribing and both short- and long-term effectiveness of medication for Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and lipid-lowering

People from South Asian and Black Caribbean backgrounds are at a higher risk of Type 2 diabetes, and it appears that they may also have more difficulty controlling blood glucose levels and avoiding complications. Dr Sophie Eastwood wants to compare different medications for people with Type 2 diabetes from European, South Asian and African Caribbean origin. She hopes to find the treatments that work best for South Asian and Black Caribbean people, to help them control their blood glucose levels.

Background to research

If you have Type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels can increase the risk of long-term complications, such as heart disease, stroke, and kidney problems. We know that the choice of medications for Type 2 diabetes, blood pressure and cholesterol is different for people from different ethnic backgrounds, but we don’t know why. Dr Eastwood’s research suggests that not all medications are as effective in South Asian and Black Caribbean people as they are in White European people. It’s therefore important to understand which medications are prescribed for people of different ethnic backgrounds, and whether they really are the best available.

Research aims

Dr Eastwood wants to understand which medications people from different ethnic background receive, and evaluate how well they work. She will use electronic medical records of 5.5 million people in the UK alongside data from the UK Biobank data: one of the largest health studies in the world that is co-funded by Diabetes UK. It collects biological samples (like blood and saliva) and other measurements (including weight, height, and blood pressure) from over 500,000 volunteers in the UK to follow their health. Dr Eastwood will look at which medications are prescribed to control blood glucose levels, blood pressure and cholesterol levels for each ethnic group. She will also look at the records to see if there has been a positive response to each type of medication. Dr Eastwood would like to find out if there are reasons why some medications work better than others in different ethnic groups, such as differences in lifestyle, body mass index (BMI, calculated using your height and weight), and access to healthcare and medications.

Potential benefit to people with diabetes

At Diabetes UK, we’re committed to improving the understanding of Type 2 diabetes. This project will provide important insight into which medications work best for people from South Asian and Black Caribbean backgrounds, to help them control their Type 2 diabetes and avoid complications.

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