Relationship Between Polypharmacy and Quality of Life Among People in 24 Countries Living With HIV
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Relationship Between Polypharmacy and Quality of Life Among People in 24 Countries Living With HIV

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  • Alternative Title:
    Prev Chronic Dis
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    People living with HIV (PLHIV) have greater risk of having multiple health conditions. We measured the relationship between increased medication and overall quality of life among PLHIV from 24 countries.


    We analyzed data for 2,112 adult PLHIV on antiretroviral therapy (ART) in 24 countries who completed the 2019 Positive Perspectives survey. Polypharmacy was defined as taking 5 or more pills a day or currently taking medications for 5 or more conditions. Outcomes were self-rated overall health, treatment satisfaction, and self-reported virologic control. New treatment concerns were issues not prioritized at ART initiation but now deemed paramount. Data were analyzed with descriptive and multivariable statistics.


    Overall prevalence of polypharmacy was 42.1%. People reporting polypharmacy had significantly poorer health outcomes independent of existing comorbidities; their odds of treatment satisfaction, optimal overall health, and virologic control were lower by 27.0% (adjusted odds ratio [AOR] = 0.73; 95% CI, 0.59–0.91), 36.0% (AOR = 0.64; 95% CI, 0.53–0.78), and 46.0% (AOR = 0.54, 95% CI, 0.42–0.70), respectively, compared with those without polypharmacy (all P < .05). Most PLHIV (56.6%) were concerned about taking more medicines as they age, and 73.1% were interested in ARTs with fewer medicines. Top reasons for switching ART among those who had ever switched (n = 1,550) were to reduce severity and frequency of side effects (45.3%), number of pills (35.0%), or number of medicines (26.8%). People reporting polypharmacy had significantly higher odds of having new concerns relative to when they initiated ART, regarding risks of drug–drug interactions (AOR = 1.32; 95% CI, 1.02–1.71) and side effects (AOR = 1.31; 95% CI, 1.02–1.68).


    Polypharmacy was associated with poorer health-related outcomes among PLHIV. Many PLHIV expressed concerns about side effects of ART. Clinicians should carefully consider patient preferences, comorbidities, and drug profiles when prescribing ART.

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