Pharmacological treatment of painful HIV-associated sensory neuropathy

P. Pillay, Antonia L. Wadley, C. L. Cherry, Alan S. Karstaedt, Peter R. Kamerman

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6 Citations (Scopus)


Background. HIV-associated sensory neuropathy (HIV-SN) is a common and frequently painful complication of HIV infection and its treatment. However, few data exist describing the frequency, type and dosage of pain medications patients are receiving in the clinic setting to manage the painful symptoms of HIV-SN. Objective. To report on analgesic prescription for painful HIV-SN and factors influencing that prescription in adults on combination antiretroviral therapy. Methods. Using validated case ascertainment criteria to identify patients with painful HIV-SN, we recruited 130 HIV-positive patients with painful HIV-SN at Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital, Johannesburg, South Africa. Demographic and clinical data (including current analgesic use) were collected on direct questioning of the patients and review of the medical files. Results. We found significant associations, of moderate effect size, between higher pain intensity and lower CD4 T-cell counts with prescription of analgesic therapy. Factors previously identified as predicting analgesic treatment in HIV-positive individuals (age, gender, level of education) were not associated with analgesic use here. Consistent with national guidelines, amitriptyline was the most commonly used agent, either alone or in combination therapy. Importantly, we also found that despite the relatively high analgesic treatment rate in this setting, the majority of patients described their current level of HIV-SN pain as moderate or severe. Conclusion. Our findings highlight the urgent need for both better analgesic options for HIV-SN pain treatment and ongoing training and support of clinicians managing this common and debilitating condition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)769-772
Number of pages4
JournalSAMJ South African Medical Journal
Issue number9
Publication statusPublished - 18 Sept 2015

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