Give it time and we all find that medicine just keeps getting better with age. Welcome in, Shingrix! A more effective shingles prevention drug than the currently used Zostavax. In addition, we now have the nod from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to begin the shingles vaccine at age 50 (as opposed to the starting age of 60 with Zostavax).
Shingles affects mainly older people and is the result of reactivation of the varicella-zoster virus which causes chickenpox and is dormant in those who have had the disease. When the sleeping giant awakes, it causes a painful rash that can be debilitating and leave long-lasting pain. Zostavax was approved in 2006 as a standard shingles immunization for people age 60 and older. Now there is a new kid on the block.
Yes, we have been recommending Zostavax for the last several years for all our patients age 60 and older and it has been somewhat effective and better than no prevention. However, we are finding that (unlike good wine), the vaccines effectiveness does not age well as it’s effectiveness declines significantly in the first 5 years. But better news is here! In clinical trials, the Shingrix remained up to 90% effective in preventing shingles in people age 70 and older compared to reductions in lifelong effectiveness as low as 32% in similar age groups with Zostavax.
A two-shot (series) Shingrix vaccine is expected to cost $280. By the mid-2018’s, we should hear if insurance companies will cover the costs.
Vaccines are constantly evolving and we should all consider offering this as an option for our patients. It may be reasonable to suggest patients obtain Shingrix at discount pharmacies until immunizations are covered by insurance companies and we are able to keep stock in our clinics.
Personally, I love progressive change. I’ll look forward to offering a more effective shingles vaccine for my patients.
For the last 30 years, I have enjoyed my morning Dannon coffee yogurt. Over the decades, I would eventually add whipped crème, then years later, nuts, and now Dude Sweet Chocolate dark chocolate granola. My breakfast yogurt just keeps getting better! It’s a silly analogy but I like to think that preventative options keep getting better. It just takes trials and tincture of time.