Rural differences in psychiatric medication prescribing in veterans with posttraumatic stress disorder

J Rural Health. 2022 Sep;38(4):764-772. doi: 10.1111/jrh.12632. Epub 2021 Nov 9.


Purpose: Disparities in the treatment of posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) for rural veterans have been noted in prior research. The objective was to examine rural differences in prescribing for veterans with PTSD, and changes over time, in the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system.

Methods: Prescribing prevalence in veterans with PTSD during 2009 and 2019 was determined using national VA administrative pharmacy data according to the joint VA-Department of Defense clinical practice guideline as medications recommended for use in PTSD and those recommended against use. Multivariable logistic regression was used to contrast patient residence (urban vs rural) and site of PTSD care (medical center, urban clinic, or rural clinic), while adjusting for clinical covariates.

Findings: Recommended medications were prescribed significantly less often to patients of rural clinics, relative to medical centers in 2009 (OR = 0.91; 95% CI: 0.89-0.94) but reached equivalence in 2019 (OR = 1.01; 95% CI: 0.99-1.03). In addition, rural clinics had significantly lower prescribing of recommended against medications (OR = 0.86; 95% CI: 0.84-0.87) in 2019. Prescribing of medications recommended against the use for PTSD was higher among rural residents, relative to urban residents in 2009 (OR = 1.14; 95% CI: 1.12-1.16), which declined toward equivalence by 2019 (OR = 1.06; 95% CI: 1.05-1.07).

Conclusions: While some clinically meaningful differences in prescribing for rural veterans with PTSD were observed in 2009, these differences shifted toward equivalency within the following decade. In 2019, we failed to observe any systematic prescribing deficiencies for veterans receiving PTSD care at rural clinics.

Keywords: pharmacoepidemiology; posttraumatic stress disorder; rural health; veterans health.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Drug Prescriptions
  • Humans
  • Rural Population
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic* / drug therapy
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic* / epidemiology
  • Stress Disorders, Post-Traumatic* / psychology
  • United States
  • United States Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Veterans* / psychology