Minority Health Month: Specialty Compounding for Race-Based Medicine

Minority Health Month: Specialty Compounding for Race-Based Medicine

i-med-bottleLast month marked Minority Health month, and was commemorated by the FDA with a paper discussing work over the last three decades in ending health disparities in America. The 30-year milestone harkens back to the very first Report of the Secretary’s Task Force on Black and Minority Health, released in 1985. The report was a milestone in conducting “a comprehensive study of racial and ethnic minority health and elevat[ing] minority health to a national stage.” Prior to this report, race-based medicine was not universally discussed.

These days minority health is better understood but there is a new trend on the rise — race-based medicine among mixed race populations.

Race-Based Medicine and Specialty Compounding

In the last decade, the multiple-race population grew faster than any single race population, with White-African and White-Asian populations growing at the highest rates. Forecasts predict that in the next 40 years, Europeans immigrants will be eclipsed by Latino and Asian immigrants. However, race-based medicine has not kept pace with these more complicated population trends.

Pharmacists are increasingly aware of the incidence of common diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension in different ethnic populations, and even the more unusual diseases or disease rates among particular populations, such as asthma in African Americans, or infant mortality and TB in Asian populations.

We are also aware of the cultural factors that come into play when considering the health of any given ethnic group. For example, although the U.S. contains the fourth largest population of the Hmong, we still have a long ways to go in convincing this community to embrace preventative care, including vaccinations. What will happen as the Hmong integrate into American society in successive generations? Will their traditional ideas of medicine change, and what genetic and cultural conditions will they encounter as they intermarry and have mixed race children? What is the shape of race-based medicine in the future?

The truth is, we don’t know. Even though mixed race populations are becoming more common, the specifics of different populations are less talked about because understanding of mixed-race health is still lacking.

The few observations we have made about generic mixed race individuals is that they tend to have decreased gestational period and birth weight and may have increased depression, substance abuse, sleep issues, and general pain. However, this is still not specific enough.

How Can Specialty Compounding Help Clarify Needed Treatments?

The fact is that data about race-based medicine in different mixed-race populations is going to be slow to come. Compounding pharmacies should not be waiting for those studies. Instead, we need to be treating mixed-race patients uniquely with specialty compounding that overrides broad ethnicity-based trends, at least for now. As patient demographics even out, cultural genetics and bias may lead to individualized compounding for all our patients.

For now, pharmacists are ahead of expert studies, meaning we need to be on the lookout for what drugs are needed before doctors (and insurance companies) come to their own conclusions. We see patients across the spectrum and our observations about trends in our local populations, including mixed races, are of immediate help. Given that census and government studies are far behind the curve on this, we are in a good position to take the lead on demographic and epidemiological surveys behind race-based medicine..

So What Can Pharmacists Do Now Regarding Race-Based Medicine?

We start by asking questions about mixed racial backgrounds. What are the patient’s parental ethnicities, country of origin, and medical family tree? If the patient is amenable to more casual conversation, ask about attitudes towards medicine and alternative care regimens.

We also need to stay abreast of what’s happening on the national stage, including understanding the concepts laid out in the HHS Action Plan to Reduce Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities, and shared by Healthy People, and passing that information to patient and physician where appropriate.

But mostly, we need to educate and be educated by our patients. Census data lags behind what we see in our communities and what studies say, and we need to communicate what we see back to physicians. Would it surprise you to learn that a study among the Hmong population showed that pharmacists were critical to educating their patients about Type II diabetes and how they could manage the condition? This information is crucial in making sure that  their children’s medicine is preventative rather than management.

The answer lies in pharmacists. We shouldn’t be led by what’s happening with race-based patients in a broad swath across the country, but by what our local communities need, and what specialty compounding those more unique patients require. It’s time to share that information where we can, as our patients can’t afford to wait for what census and board studies eventually recommend in race-based medicine.

Pharmaceutica North America is committed to providing ingredients for the compounding of effective medicines to meet the needs of individual patients. For information on our safe, high-quality products, please contact us today.


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