(HealthDay News) — Hispanics became much more likely to take their heart medicines after Medicare’s prescription drug benefit plan was launched in 2006, but there was only a small increase seen among black patients, according to a new study slated for presentation Monday at an American Heart Association (AHA) meeting in Baltimore.

Researchers analyzed U.S. government data to identify trends in the four years after the drug plan – formally called Medicare Part D – was introduced. Patients in all racial groups were more likely to take their prescribed heart medicines, with increases of 60% among Hispanics, 47% among whites, and 9% among blacks.

This resulted in a more than 15% decrease in the heart drug adherence gap between Hispanics and whites. However, the gap between blacks and whites increased by more than 5%. The differences in heart drug adherence between blacks and Hispanics may be due to a number of reasons, the researchers noted. Hispanics may have been more aware of the drug benefit’s launch due to their prior use of drug discount card programs, and are more likely to use the Part D low-income subsidy and to be enrolled in Medicare Advantage plans, which offer their own drug coverage.

“Health care providers should collaborate in creative ways to empower minorities to overcome issues that can interfere with their health care and medication adherence, such as stress, depression, financial problems, and lack of family or social support,” study author Mustafa Hussein, a pre-doctoral fellow in health outcomes and policy research at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis, said in an AHA news release.

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