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Researchers from the Perelman School of Medicine found that racial, gender, and socioeconomic factors are linked to the likelihood of receiving a proven diabetes treatment. 

A study published in JAMA Network Open found that the use of sodium-glucose cotransporter 2 inhibitors, a class of drugs used to treat type 2 diabetes, remains low in Black, Asian, and lower-income Americans despite an increase in use among the general population, Penn Today reported. Current Food and Drug Administration guidelines recommend using SGLT2 inhibitors to lower blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetes patients. The inhibitors work by inducing kidneys to remove sugar from the body through urine, according to the FDA.

“Study after study, including large randomized trials, have demonstrated a cardio-protective and kidney-protective effect of this class of medications,” Lauren Eberly, a cardiology fellow at Penn and lead study author told Penn Today.

This study analyzed data from over 900,000 commercially insured patients between October 2015 and June 2019. Researchers found an overall 8.1% increase in the use of SGLT2 inhibitors across all type 2 diabetes patients, according to PhillyVoice. 

Srinath Adusumalli, an assistant professor of clinical medicine in the division of cardiovascular medicine, said the results of the study are consistent with prior studies that found lower use of novel therapies among Black patients.

"Implementation strategies that prioritize not only delivery of guideline-directed care but also equitable guideline-directed care are critical in ensuring all patients have access to evidence-based therapies," Adusumalli told Penn Medicine News.

Penn researchers also found that a lack of access to specialty care for marginalized populations may be another factor, Penn Medicine News reported. 

If unaddressed, Eberly told Penn Medicine News these inequities could continue to widen well-documented disparities in cardiovascular and kidney outcomes in the United States.

“We know there are already higher rates of heart failure and kidney disease among Black patients," Eberly told Penn Medicine News. "What is concerning is that this is a therapy we know prevents death from those conditions and prevents progression from those conditions, and yet, we found that Black patients are less likely to get this therapy, as well as female patients and those with lower socioeconomic status.”