Pharmacologic and non-pharmacologic treatments for chronic pain in individuals with HIV: a systematic review

Jessica S. Merlin, Hailey W. Bulls, Lee A. Vucovich, E. Jennifer Edelman, Joanna L. Starrels

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


Chronic pain occurs in as many as 85% of individuals with HIV and is associated with substantial functional impairment. Little guidance is available for HIV providers seeking to address their patients’ chronic pain. We conducted a systematic review to identify clinical trials and observational studies that examined the impact of pharmacologic or non-pharmacologic interventions on pain and/or functional outcomes among HIV-infected individuals with chronic pain in high-development countries. Eleven studies met inclusion criteria and were mostly low or very low quality. Seven examined pharmacologic interventions (gabapentin, pregabalin, capsaicin, analgesics including opioids) and four examined non-pharmacologic interventions (cognitive behavioral therapy, self-hypnosis, smoked cannabis). The only controlled studies with positive results were of capsaicin and cannabis, and had short-term follow-up (≤12 weeks). Among the seven studies of pharmacologic interventions, five had substantial pharmaceutical industry sponsorship. These findings highlight several important gaps in the HIV/chronic pain literature that require further research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1506-1515
Number of pages10
JournalAIDS Care - Psychological and Socio-Medical Aspects of AIDS/HIV
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016


  • HIV
  • chronic pain
  • cognitive therapy
  • hypnosis
  • medical marijuana
  • systematic review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology
  • Health(social science)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health


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