This report studied a group of almost 14,000 veterans with and without HIV to investigate factors that result in serious falls. More specifically, “serious falls” were defined by the authors as falls that caused a patient to seek health care.  The study determined which classes and numbers of medications that were used, whether there was heavy alcohol use and substance abuse in the study samples. The mean age at the time of a serious fall among veterans living with HIV was 57 years old compared to 58 years old for veterans who were HIV negative.

In both study groups (HIV+ and HIV negative), frequent non-ART medication use (5 medications or more), illicit substance abuse or an opioid prescription, and hazardous alcohol use were related to falls. Among adults with HIV, use of benzodiazepines, such as Valium and Xanax, and muscle relaxants, such as Soma and Robaxin were also associated with more falls. This pattern was not found among those without HIV.

These results suggest that serious falls by people with HIV can be reduced by monitoring the specific medications they are taking. Patients with HIV need to exercise caution if they have been prescribed benzodiazepines and/or muscle relaxants. Reducing the number of medications being taken should be a goal. Finally, abuse of illicit drugs as well as reducing alcohol intake are needed goals in order to reduce serious falls and their health consequences.

Womack, J. A, et al. (2019) Polypharmacy, hazardous alcohol and illicit substance abuse and serious falls among PLWH and uninfected comparators.  JAIDS – Published ahead of print – doi:10.1097.