Prescriptions for Chronic Conditions Underused in U.S. Jails, Prisons

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Additionally, chronic disease prevalence higher in the incarcerated population

By Lori Solomon HealthDay Reporter

FRIDAY, April 28, 2023 (HealthDay News) — Prescription medications for chronic conditions are substantially underused in U.S. jails and state prisons, according to a study published online April 14 in JAMA Health Forum.

Jill Curran, from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, and colleagues evaluated the use of prescription medications for chronic conditions in U.S. jails and prisons. Data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (2018 to 2020) were used to estimate the prevalence of disease among recently incarcerated and nonincarcerated U.S. adults, and data from the IQVIA National Sales Perspective (2018 to 2020) were used to quantify the distribution of medications to the incarcerated and nonincarcerated populations.

The researchers found that the proportion of pharmaceuticals distributed to jails and state prisons to treat type 2 diabetes (0.15 percent), asthma (0.15 percent), hypertension (0.18 percent), hepatitis B or C (1.68 percent), HIV (0.73 percent), depression (0.36 percent), and severe mental illness (0.48 percent) was much lower compared with the relative burden of disease among this population. The relative disparity was 2.9-fold for diabetes, 5.5-fold for asthma, 2.4-fold for hypertension, 1.9-fold for hepatitis B or C, 3.0-fold for HIV, 4.1-fold for depression, and 4.1-fold for severe mental illness, when adjusting for disease prevalence.

“Our findings raise serious concerns about the access to and quality of pharmacologic care for very common chronic health conditions among the incarcerated,” a coauthor said in a statement. “We knew going in that the U.S. incarcerated population has a higher prevalence of some chronic diseases. But we were really surprised by the extent of potential undertreatment that we identified.”

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