Polypharmacy and risk of falls and fractures for patients with HIV infection and substance dependence

AIDS Care. 2018 Feb;30(2):150-159. doi: 10.1080/09540121.2017.1384532. Epub 2017 Oct 16.


Although people with HIV infection (PLWH) are at higher risk of polypharmacy and substance use, there is limited knowledge about potential harms associated with polypharmacy such as falls and fractures in this population. The study objective was to determine whether polypharmacy, as measured by the number and type of medication, is associated with falls and fractures among PLWH and DSM-IV substance dependence in the past year or ever injection drug use (IDU). We identified the number of medications by electronic medical record review in the following categories: (i) systemically active, (ii) non-antiretroviral (non-ARV), (iii) sedating, (iv) non-sedating as well as any opioid medication and any non-opioid sedating medication. Outcomes were self-reported (1) fall/accident requiring medical attention and (2) fracture in the previous year. Separate logistic regression models were fitted for medications in each category and each outcome. Among 250 participants, the odds of a fall requiring medical attention were higher with each additional medication overall (odds ratio [OR] 1.12, 95% Confidence Interval [CI] = 1.05, 1.18), each additional non-ARV medication (OR 1.13, 95%CI = 1.06, 1.20), each additional sedating medication (OR 1.36, 95%CI = 1.14, 1.62), and a non-opioid sedating medication (OR 2.89, 95%CI = 1.06, 7.85) but not with an additional non-sedating medication or opioid medication. In receiver operating characteristic (ROC) curve analyses, optimal cutoffs for predicting falls were: ≥8 overall and ≥2 sedating medications. Odds ratios for fracture in the previous year were OR 1.05, 95%CI = 0.97, 1.13 for each additional medication overall and OR 1.11, 95%CI = 0.89, 1.38 for each additional sedating medication. In PLWH and substance dependence or ever IDU, a higher number of medications was associated with greater odds of having a fall requiring medical attention. The association appeared to be driven largely by sedating medications. Future studies should determine if reducing such polypharmacy, particularly sedating medications, lowers the risk of falls.

Keywords: HIV; Substance dependence; fall; polypharmacy.

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls / statistics & numerical data*
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use
  • Anti-Retroviral Agents / therapeutic use
  • Drug Prescriptions / statistics & numerical data*
  • Drug Utilization / statistics & numerical data
  • Electronic Health Records
  • Female
  • HIV Infections / drug therapy
  • HIV Infections / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Polypharmacy*
  • Risk Factors
  • Substance-Related Disorders / complications*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / drug therapy
  • Substance-Related Disorders / epidemiology
  • Substance-Related Disorders / psychology


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Anti-Retroviral Agents