Panic Disorder Often Undertreated

Experts Question the Quality of Primary Care for Panic Disorder

Medically Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD on September 15, 2006
From the WebMD Archives

Sept. 15, 2006 -- Many people with panic disorder may not be getting top-notch treatment from their primary care doctors.

So say Peter Roy-Byrne, MD, and colleagues in The Lancet.

Roy-Byrne works in the psychiatry and behavioral sciences department at the University of Washington School of Medicine at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

"Panic disorder is a common mental disorder that affects up to 5% of the population at some point in life," write Roy-Burne and colleagues.

Without treatment, panic disorder may be disabling and can seriously affect quality of life. But treatments, including antidepressants and cognitive behavioral therapy, may help.

In cognitive behavioral therapy, panic disorder patients learn constructive ways to think about and manage fear and panic.

People generally first seek help for panic disorder from their primary care doctors. But those doctors may not be delivering an adequate level of care for panic disorder, say the researchers.

Of people seeking help for panic disorder from their primary care doctors, only an estimated 19% to 40% get the minimum standard of treatment, Roy-Burne's team writes.

The researchers also note "many other barriers" to panic disorder treatment.

Those barriers include "uncertainty about where to seek help, insufficient organization of primary care to treat chronic disease, and problems with insurance coverage and concerns about cost of care [especially in the USA]," write the researchers.

They add that "new approaches are needed to overcome these barriers and to improve delivery of health care for patients with panic disorder."

In the journal, Roy-Burne and colleagues note ties to various drug companies.

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SOURCES: Roy-Byrne, P. The Lancet, Sept. 16, 2006; vol 368: pp 1023-1032. News release, The Lancet.
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