Undertreatment of panic disorder in primary care: role of patient and physician characteristics

J Am Board Fam Pract. 2002 Nov-Dec;15(6):443-50.


Background: In contrast with many studies describing the usual care for major depression in the primary care setting, there are few data on treatment received by primary care patients with panic disorder.

Methods: This prospective cohort study describes the self-reported medication use, at 3-month intervals for 1 year, of 58 patients with panic disorder and predictors of the use of appropriate (type, dose, and duration) medication.

Results: Approximately one half the patients received some type of antipanic medication at each interval, with selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) the most common. Pharmacy records indicate that about 40% of patients not taking medication had received an initial physician prescription. Adequacy of dose and duration was achieved in only two thirds of the medication trials, usually with an SSRI. Patient characteristics (agoraphobia and low neuroticism) but not physician characteristics (eg, specialty, level of training, or years in practice) predicted those patients who had an adequate trial during at least one time interval. The relation between adequacy of medication and outcome was minimal.

Conclusion: These findings highlight the continued undertreatment of panic disorder in primary care but suggest that focused efforts at physician education about diagnosis and treatment are less likely to increase rates of treatment compared with efforts to educate patients and improve the care process with more frequent visits and monitoring.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Cohort Studies
  • Demography
  • Drug Utilization / statistics & numerical data*
  • Female
  • Health Services Misuse
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Panic Disorder / drug therapy*
  • Practice Patterns, Physicians' / statistics & numerical data*
  • Primary Health Care / standards*
  • Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Washington


  • Serotonin Uptake Inhibitors