Stay Focused With HIV Meds

Bipolar disorder may lead some patients to falsely report that they are taking their HIV medications

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Getting the most out of a medication requires taking it every day and on time, especially for chronic conditions such as HIV. It's a tall order for anyone and mental health issues can complicate matters.

Research now shows that people with bipolar disorder are more likely to say they are taking their HIV medications when they are not actually doing so. There are multiple software apps to help patients better manage their medication progress.

"Talk to your doctor about medication reminder tools."

Researchers led by Jayraan Badiee, MPH, of the University of California – San Diego, compared three different medication monitoring systems – one electronic and two self-report measures of medication taking.

The electronic monitoring system is a device that tracks the doses of medication as they are taken and can provide information about when medications were taken and if all required doses were taken. 

The researchers looked at 74 people with HIV. The participants were split into two groups: those with bipolar disorder and those without bipolar disorder.  

They found that people without bipolar disorder rated themselves similarly to the ratings of the electronic device. People with bipolar disorder and HIV self-reported that they were taking their HIV meds, but the electronic device showed that they were not adhering to the medication regimen.

The authors concluded, “Combined approaches of self-report and objective measures may be the best way to estimate adherence, and may provide the best basis for interventions designed to improve adherence in difficult-to-treat populations.”

dailyRx spoke with Barbara Long, MD, PhD, a psychiatrist, about the results of this study. She commented, “More than patients with many other mental disorders, those with bipolar disorder struggle with compliance with medications, as usually they must take medications on a daily basis for the rest of their lives in order to prevent relapse into a manic episode.“

“For [people with bipolar disorder] . . . high denial plus resistance to the idea of daily meds for life may apply to their idea of complying with other medications, like those for HIV. They may convince themselves they are compliant, but objective measures may find otherwise.“

This research was published in June online ahead of print in AIDS Patient Care and STDs. No conflicts of interest were disclosed.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
June 21, 2012
Last Updated:
November 9, 2012