A new study has found that race may play a role in who is prescribed antidepressant medications like Paxil. The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan School of Public Health, showed that African-Americans and Hispanics who are suffering from major depressive disorder are less likely to be prescribed antidepressant medications than Caucasians. The study also showed that patients on Medicare and Medicaid were also less likely to get prescribed the latest antidepressants.

For the study, the researchers analyzed the prescription patterns from 1993 to 2007. Their goal was to see if they could get information about how doctors prescribe the antidepressant medications like Paxil. They looked at who was receiving the drugs and what type of antidepressants was being prescribed. What they found was that “race, payment source, physician ownership status and geographical region influenced whether physicians decided to prescribe antidepressants in the first place.”

The study showed that Caucasians were 1.52 times more likely to be given the antidepressants than the Hispanics and African-American patients. However, the patients’ race did not seem to play a factor in which antidepressant medication they received when they were prescribed.

“This study confirmed previous findings that sociological factors, such as race and ethnicity, and patient health insurance status, influence physician prescribing behaviors,” said Rajesh Balkrishnan, Ph.D., principal investigator and associate director for Research and Education, University of Michigan Center for Global Health. “This is true in particular for major depressive disorder treatment.”

While this study shows that race may play a role in who is prescribed antidepressants like Paxil, race is not a factor when it comes to the serious side effects that are linked to these drugs. Patients taking antidepressants like Paxil and Effexor are at risk of harming their unborn babies if taken during pregnancy. In fact, these SSRI medications have been proven to cause birth defects (PPHN, oral clefts and neural tube defects) in babies exposed to the drug in-utero. Some grown patients even suffer from aggressive and suicidal thoughts and behaviors while on the drugs. The side effects show that no matter who is given these drugs, they are not safe. Perhaps those patients who are not being prescribed these antidepressant medications are luckier than those who receive them.