General exposures to prescription medications by race/ethnicity in a population-based sample: results from the Boston Area Community Health Survey

Pharmacoepidemiol Drug Saf. 2010 Apr;19(4):384-92. doi: 10.1002/pds.1920.


Purpose: Few recent U.S. studies have examined population-based patterns in prescription drug use and even fewer have considered detailed patterns by race/ethnicity. In a representative community sample, our objectives were to determine the most commonly used prescription drug classes, and to describe their use by age, gender, and race/ethnicity.

Methods: Cross-sectional epidemiologic study of 5503 (1767 black, 1877 Hispanic, 1859 white) community-dwelling participants aged 30-79 in the Boston Area Community Health (BACH) Survey (2002-2005). Using medication information collected from an in-home interview and medication inventory, the prevalence of use of a therapeutic class (95% confidence interval (95%CI)) in the past month was estimated by gender, age group, and race/ethnicity. Estimates were weighted inversely to the probability of sampling for generalizablity to Boston, MA.

Results: The therapeutic class containing selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor/serotonin norepinephrine reuptake inhibitor (SSRI/SNRI) antidepressants was most commonly used (14.6%), followed by statins (13.9%), beta-adrenergic blockers (10.6%), and angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors (10.5%). Within all age groups and both genders, black participants were substantially less likely than white to use SSRI/SNRI antidepressants (e.g., black men: 6.0% [95%CI: 3.9-8.1%]; white men: 15.0% [95%CI: 10.2-19.4%]). Other race/ethnic differences were observed: for example, black women were significantly less likely than other groups to use benzodiazepines (e.g., black: 2.6% [95%CI: 1.2-3.9%]; Hispanic: 9.4% [95%CI: 5.8-13.0%]).

Conclusions: Race/ethnic differences in use of prescription therapeutic classes were observed in our community sample. Examining therapeutic classes rather than individual drugs resulted in a different distribution of common exposures compared to other surveys.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • African Americans / statistics & numerical data
  • Aged
  • Boston / epidemiology
  • Community Health Services* / statistics & numerical data
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Drug Utilization Review / statistics & numerical data*
  • European Continental Ancestry Group / statistics & numerical data
  • Female
  • Hispanic Americans / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Population Groups / ethnology*
  • Population Groups / statistics & numerical data
  • Population Surveillance / methods*
  • Prescription Drugs / administration & dosage
  • Prescription Drugs / therapeutic use*


  • Prescription Drugs