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Original Research

What’s Gender Got to Do With It: Accounting for Differences in Incident Guideline Discordant Prescribing for PTSD Among Women and Men Veterans

Kenda R. Stewart Steffensmeier, PhD; Katherine Hadlandsmyth, PhD; Nancy Bernardy, PhD; Daniel Ball, PhD; Nicole L. Johnson, PhD; Jennifer Van Tiem, PhD; and Brian C. Lund, PharmD

Published: June 5, 2024


Objectives: Women veterans are more likely than men veterans to receive medications that Department of Veterans Affairs clinical practice guidelines recommend against to treat posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). To understand this difference, we examined potential confounders in incident prescribing of guideline discordant medications (GDMs) in veterans with PTSD.

Methods: Veterans receiving care for PTSD during 2020 were identified using Veterans Health Administration administrative data. PTSD diagnosis was established by the presence of at least 1 ICD-10 coded outpatient encounter or inpatient hospitalization during the calendar year 2020. Incident GDM prescribing was assessed during 2021, including benzodiazepines, antipsychotics, select anticonvulsants, and select antidepressants. Log-binomial regression was used to estimate the difference in risk for GDM initiation between men and women, adjusted for patient, prescriber, and facility-level covariates, and to identify key confounding variables.

Results: Of 704,699 veterans with PTSD, 16.9% of women and 10.1% of men initiated a GDM, an increased risk of 67% for women [relative risk (RR) = 1.67; 95% CI, 1.65–1.70]. After adjustment, the gender difference decreased to 1.22 (95% CI, 1.20–1.24) in a fully specified model. Three key confounding variables were identified: bipolar disorder (RR = 1.60; 95% CI, 1.57–1.63), age (<40 years: RR = 1.20 [1.18–1.22]; 40–54 years: RR = 1.13 [1.11–1.16]; ≥65 years: RR = 0.64 [0.62–0.65]), and count of distinct psychiatric medications prescribed in the prior year (RR = 1.14; 1.13–1.14).

Conclusions: Women veterans with PTSD were 67% more likely to initiate a GDM, where more than half of this effect was explained by bipolar disorder, age, and prior psychiatric medication. After adjustment, women veterans remained at 22% greater risk for an incident GDM, suggesting that other factors remain unidentified and warrant further investigation.

J Clin Psychiatry 2024;85(2):23m15174

Author affiliations are listed at the end of this article.

Volume: 85

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