Prescription opioid use in HIV-positive individuals is underestimated, based on data from a 12-week study of medical and nonmedical prescription drug use in HIV patients attending a medical center and community clinic.

Of the 254 participants in the study, 43% reported medical use of prescription opioids, and 11% of the opioid use was reported as nonmedical.

Previous studies of prescription drug use in the HIV-positive population have mainly focused on nonmedical use, so “the existing research likely underestimates overall exposure of HIV-positive individuals to prescription medications,” wrote Abigail Norris Turner, PhD, of Ohio State University in Columbus, and her colleagues. Nonmedical use was defined as “using more medication than prescribed, using medication prescribed to someone else, or using medication for a purpose other than its prescribed use,” the researchers wrote.

The cross-sectional, self-administered survey involved data collection during July and August 2015 at a large, urban medical center (149 patients) and a community-based AIDS service organization (105 patients). Most of the study participants were male (91%), were identified as gay or bisexual (79%), and were at least 40 years old (61%).

Overall, 27% of the participants reported nonmedical use of any prescription drug during the previous year. Of these, 17% reported using one medication, 8% reported using two medications, and 2% reported using three or more medications. During the past month, 14% reported nonmedical use of a prescription drug, with 17% reporting one medication, 8% reporting two medications, and 2% reporting three or more medications. Reports of drug use were similar between the hospital group and clinic group.

The findings were limited by the cross-sectional nature of the study and the reliance on self-reports, the researchers noted; therefore, “we cannot make inferences about the causes and consequences of prescription medication use,” they said.

However, the results suggest that “it would be prudent for HIV providers to regularly review their opioid prescription practices to make sure they are appropriate; this review could also help identify patients at risk for opioid dependence and those who may benefit from referral to a pain medicine specialist or addiction medicine specialist,” they wrote.

The study was supported in part by the National Institutes of Health and the SOLAR Foundation Research Fund at the Ohio State University.

Read the full study here : AIDS Care 2016 Jun 20. doi: 10.1080/09540121.2016.1198746.