Gender differences in mood stabilizer medications prescribed to Veterans with serious mental illness

Melanie Charlotte, Elana Schwartz, Eric Slade, Deborah Medoff, Lan Li, Lisa Dixon, Amy M. Kilbourne, Julie Kreyenbuhl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background Mood stabilizer medications (MSMs) can induce significant weight gain and other metabolic side effects. Research suggests that women are more susceptible to psychotropic medication-induced metabolic side effects than men. We examined gender differences in the likelihood of receiving an MSM with a lower liability for weight gain using data from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) healthcare system. Methods We identified 3823 VA patients with a schizophrenia or bipolar disorder diagnosis who initiated treatment with a MSM between 10/2006 and 9/2011. We used multivariable logistic regression analysis to examine gender differences in the likelihood of incident prescription of MSMs with low versus medium/high metabolic risk, adjusting for fiscal year of prescribing and demographic, mental health, and physical health characteristics. Results Overall, 47% of women were prescribed a low metabolic risk MSM compared to 26% of men (p<0.0001). In multivariable analysis, women were 2.19 times as likely as men to be prescribed a low metabolic risk MSM (95% CI: 1.84-2.60, p<0.0001). Several demographic and clinical covariates were also independently related to prescribing of MSMs by level of metabolic risk. Limitations This study used retrospective administrative data collected from a VA healthcare system database, which does not allow us to understand the context in which MSM treatment decisions were made. Conclusions Prescribing choices for MSMs by VA mental health prescribers and female Veterans may reflect a growing awareness of the potential adverse health consequences of these treatments in women.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)112-117
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Affective Disorders
StatePublished - Dec 1 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Mood stabilizer medications
  • Serious mental illness
  • Weight gain
  • Women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Clinical Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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