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Home Industry News Merck “first and only” shingles vaccine approved

Merck “first and only” shingles vaccine approved

30th May 2006

Merck has announced that Zostavax, the “first and only medical option” for the prevention of shingles, has been approved in the US by the FDA.

Shingles is caused by the herpes varicella zoster virus which most commonly affects the skin of older people. There is also a strong link with people who have been infected with chickenpox – a disease caused by the same virus as shingles which occurs in the majority of the population of many western countries. However, unlike chickenpox, shingles is not infectious unless the affected skin is in direct contact with someone else’s skin.

In a study of 40,000 people, 21,000 people were given the vaccine. It found that that Zostavax “significantly” reduced the risk of developing shingles by 51 per cent. The study also found that in cases where patients did develop shingles despite having taken the vaccine, the incidence of long-term nerve pain resulting from the disease was significantly reduced by 39 per cent.

Ann Arvin, professor of paediatrics, infectious diseases, microbiology and immunology at the Stanford University school of medicine, said: “This vaccine is clinically important because it can prevent a disease that may cause pain in some patients.”

“Zostavax is unique because in contrast to other vaccines that help prevent a primary infection, Zostavax helps prevent reactivation of a virus that’s already inside the body,” she added.

William Schaffner, professor of preventive medicine, Vanderbilt University school of medicine, Nashville, concluded: “Approval of a vaccine against shingles represents a major public health advance for people 60 and older.”

According to UK’s Shingles Support Society, approximately 250,000 Britons contract shingles every year and by age 85, 60 per cent will have contracted shingles at some point.

track© Adfero Ltd

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