Degree of Polypharmacy and Cognitive Function in Older Women with HIV

Leah H. Rubin, Ava G. Neijna, Qiuhu Shi, Donald R. Hoover, Bani Tamraz, Kathryn Anastos, Andrew Edmonds, Margaret A. Fischl, Deborah Gustafson, Pauline M. Maki, Daniel Merenstein, Anandi N. Sheth, Gayle Springer, David Vance, Kathleen M. Weber, Anjali Sharma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


The number of people with HIV (PWH) experiencing age-associated comorbidities including those treated with medications and cognitive impairment is increasing. We examined associations between polypharmacy and cognition in older women with HIV (WWH) given their vulnerability to this comorbidity. Cross-sectional analysis capitalizing on Women's Interagency HIV Study data collected between 2014 and 2017. WWH meeting the following criteria were analyzed: age ≥50 years; availability of self-reported non-antiretroviral therapy (ART) medications data; and neuropsychological data. The number of non-ART medications used regularly in the prior 6 months was summed. Polypharmacy was categorized as none/low (0-4), moderate (5-9), or severe (≥10). Multivariable linear regression analyses examined polypharmacy-cognition (T-score) associations in the total sample and among virally suppressed (VS; < 20 copies/mL)-WWH after covariate adjustment for enrollment site, income, depressive symptoms, substance use (smoking, heavy alcohol, marijuana, crack, cocaine, and/or heroin), the Veterans Aging Cohort Study index (indicators of HIV disease and organ system function, hepatitis C virus serostatus), ART use, nadir CD4 count, and specific ART drugs (efavirenz, integrase inhibitors). We included 637 women (median age = 55 years; 72% Black). Ninety-four percent reported ART use in the past 6 months and 75% had HIV RNA <20 copies/mL. Comorbidity prevalence was high (61% hypertension; 26% diabetes). Moderate and severe polypharmacy in WWH were 34% and 24%. In WWH, severe polypharmacy was associated with poorer executive function (p = .007) and processing speed (p = .01). The same pattern of findings remained among VS-WWH. Moderate polypharmacy was not associated with cognition. Moderate and severe polypharmacy were common and associated with poorer executive function and processing speed in WWH. Severe polypharmacy may be a major contributor to the persistence of domain-specific cognitive complications in older WWH above and beyond the conditions that these medications are used to treat.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)571-579
Number of pages9
JournalAIDS Research and Human Retroviruses
Issue number7
StatePublished - Jul 2022


  • HIV
  • cognition
  • polypharmacy
  • women

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Immunology
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Virology


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