Taking three or more non-antiretroviral (ART) medications increased the risk of hospitalization or death among U.S. veterans regardless of whether they were living with HIV, a study published in AIDS found. The result was independent of demographic characteristics or severity of illness.
Data from the U.S. health care system for veterans on 9,473 people living with HIV and 39,812 without the virus were analyzed. Non-antiretroviral polypharmacy was quite common among all participants and similar regardless of HIV status, with over two-thirds receiving more than two medications and over a third receiving at least five.
Participants taking more than two non-antiretroviral medications faced an increased risk of hospitalization independent of HIV status. Serostatus was associated with mortality in those taking three to four non-ART drugs, but not in people taking five or more such medications. The heightened risk may be due to cumulative toxicity, side effects or drug-drug interactions, study authors hypothesized.
As people living with HIV age, they are more likely to take multiple medications, researchers noted. "Future research is needed to determine the impact of eliminating medications not essential for quality of life and survival among those aging with HIV infection," they concluded.