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Original Research

Anticonvulsant Medication Use in Veterans With Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

Brian Shiner, MD, MPH; Christine Leonard Westgate, MS; Nancy C. Bernardy, PhD; Paula P. Schnurr, PhD; and Bradley V. Watts, MD, MPH

Published: May 24, 2017

Article Abstract

Objective: Anticonvulsants have been studied for many indications, including posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The limited efficacy research on anticonvulsants for PTSD is mixed. However, anticonvulsants are prescribed widely to veterans with PTSD. Our objective was to measure trends and factors associated with anticonvulsant prescriptions among veterans with PTSD.

Methods: We obtained administrative and pharmacy data for veterans who initiated PTSD treatment in the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) between 2004 and 2013 (N = 731,520). We identified those who received anticonvulsants during the year following their initial clinical PTSD diagnosis and examined common indications for anticonvulsant use, patient characteristics, and service use characteristics. Using logistic regression, we determined the predictors of anticonvulsant initiation among those without an indication.

Results: Although 24.9% of patients in the cohort received an anticonvulsant during their initial year of PTSD treatment, 94.6% had an indication unrelated to PTSD and 51.2% initiated anticonvulsant use before their PTSD diagnosis. While there was growth in anticonvulsant initiation over the 10-year period, this was explained both by growth in indications unrelated to PTSD and by increased use of anticonvulsants for these indications. The rate of anticonvulsant initiation without an indication was stable at approximately 5% throughout the period, with patient and service use characteristics driving the selection of individual agents.

Conclusions: A large and increasing proportion of veterans with PTSD receives anticonvulsant prescriptions. However, this may be appropriate use driven by increased prevalence of comorbid conditions that may be an indication for anticonvulsant use, including pain and headache disorders.

Volume: 78

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