Racial/ethnic disparities in prevalence and care of patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus

Curr Med Res Opin. 2015 May;31(5):913-23. doi: 10.1185/03007995.2015.1029894.


Background: As of 2012, nearly 10% of Americans had diabetes mellitus. People with diabetes are at approximately double the risk of premature death compared with those in the same age groups without the condition. While the prevalence of diabetes has risen across all racial/ethnic groups over the past 30 years, rates are higher in minority populations. The objective of this review article is to evaluate the prevalence of diabetes and disease-related comorbidities as well as the primary endpoints of clinical studies assessing glucose-lowering treatments in African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians.

Methods: As part of our examination of this topic, we reviewed epidemiologic and outcome publications. Additionally, we performed a comprehensive literature search of clinical trials that evaluated glucose-lowering drugs in racial minority populations. For race/ethnicity, we used the terms African American, African, Hispanic, and Asian. We searched PubMed for clinical trial results from 1996 to 2015 using these terms by drug class and specific drug. Search results were filtered qualitatively.

Results: Overall, the majority of publications that fit our search criteria pertained to native Asian patient populations (i.e., Asian patients in Asian countries). Sulfonylureas; the α-glucosidase inhibitor, miglitol; the biguanide, metformin; and the thiazolidinedione, rosiglitazone have been evaluated in African American and Hispanic populations, as well as in Asians. The literature on other glucose-lowering drugs in non-white races/ethnicities is more limited.

Conclusions: Clinical data are needed for guiding diabetes treatment among racial minority populations. A multi-faceted approach, including vigilant screening in at-risk populations, aggressive treatment, and culturally sensitive patient education, could help reduce the burden of diabetes on minority populations. To ensure optimal outcomes, educational programs that integrate culturally relevant approaches should highlight the importance of risk-factor control in minority patients.

Keywords: Ethnicity; Insulin; Racial disparities in access to treatment; Type 2 diabetes mellitus.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / epidemiology
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / therapy*
  • Ethnicity / statistics & numerical data
  • Healthcare Disparities / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Hypoglycemic Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Prevalence
  • Racial Groups / statistics & numerical data
  • Risk Factors
  • United States / epidemiology


  • Hypoglycemic Agents