Black, Asian, and other non-Hispanic Americans are less likely than are whites to seek treatment for psoriasis, according to data on 842 patients, reported Alexander H. Fischer, MD, of the University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, and his colleagues.

Data from previous studies have shown that racial and ethnic minorities have more severe psoriasis and a lower quality of life as a result of the disease, compared with white patients, the researchers noted in a study published as a research letter in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology.

They reviewed data from the Medical Expenditure Panel Survey on health care utilization, cost, and insurance coverage in the United States from 2001 through 2013.

A total of 51% of non-Hispanic whites with psoriasis sought treatment from a dermatologist, compared with 47% of Hispanic whites and 38% of non-Hispanic minorities (blacks, Asians, native Hawaiians, Pacific Islanders, and others). In addition, non-Hispanic minorities had significantly fewer ambulatory visits for psoriasis per year than did whites (a mean of 1.30 visits vs. 2.69 visits). Black, Asian, and other non-Hispanic minorities were about 40% less likely than were non-Hispanic whites to seek care for psoriasis.

The number of psoriasis prescriptions obtained was not significantly different among the racial/ethnic groups, the researchers reported.

The study is important because of the lack of data on psoriasis in nonwhite populations, senior author  Junko Takeshita, MD , PhD, also of the University of Pennsylvania, said in an interview.

“Based on a few existing studies, we know that psoriasis is less common among minorities, but minorities, particularly blacks, may have more severe disease,” she said. “Also, minorities report poorer quality of life due to psoriasis than whites, independent of psoriasis severity. Furthermore, we previously published a study among Medicare beneficiaries with psoriasis that revealed that blacks are about 70% less likely to receive biologic therapies than whites, independent of socioeconomic status and access to medical care,” she added.

“The take-home message for clinicians is that while psoriasis is less common among minorities than whites, minorities may suffer from a larger burden of disease, yet have fewer visits and are less likely to see a dermatologist for their psoriasis,” Dr. Takeshita said. “This disparity in health care utilization for psoriasis does not seem to be entirely explained by racial/ethnic differences in socioeconomic status and health insurance. It is yet unknown why this disparity exists, and I’m not sure that minority patients being ‘hesitant to pursue care’ is the entire answer, though it may be a contributing factor,” she noted.

The study findings were limited by several factors including the relatively small sample size and the use of self-reports.

Many factors could be contributing to the disparity, including patient, physician/other health care provider, and health care system factors, but “once we identify the major causes of the disparity, we can develop methods to address the causes and reduce the disparity,” said Dr. Takeshita, who is a dermatologist and an epidemiologist. In the meantime, she added, “some things I think that are important to ensure equitable care for psoriasis are making sure that clinicians/dermatologists are comfortable diagnosing and treating psoriasis in nonwhite individuals, and encouraging clinicians to help increase awareness of psoriasis by educating their minority patients that psoriasis is still a common skin disease among nonwhite individuals.”

The study was supported in part by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. Dr. Takeshita has received a research grant from Pfizer; she and another author, Joel Gelfand, MD, have received payment for psoriasis-related continuing medical education work supported indirectly by Eli Lilly; Dr. Gelfand’s other disclosures included serving as a consultant for, and having received research grants from, several other pharmaceutical companies. Dr. Fischer, a medical student at Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, at the time of the research, and a fourth author had no financial disclosures.

SOURCE: Fischer AH et al. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2018 Jan;78[1]:200-3. doi: 10.1016/j.jaad.2017.07.052 .