PHARMACY

Kaiser Permanente: Chicken pox vaccine may also reduce risk of shingles among children

BY Alaric DeArment

OAKLAND, Calif. Researchers at Kaiser Permanente found something unusual when they looked at electronic health records of children vaccinated for chicken pox: Few of them had shingles.

Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, is an disease that causes painful blisters and results from the same virus that causes chickenpox, varicella-zoster. After chicken pox symptoms subside, the virus goes dormant, but it may be reawakened years later, resulting in shingles.

The Kaiser Permanente researchers looked at data for more than 170,000 children vaccinated for chicken pox between 2002 and 2008 in the company’s Southern California region, following the children for around two and a half years to identify how often herpes zoster occurred. They found 122 cases, an incidence of 1-in-3,700 vaccinated children per year and, according to the study, a lower rate than one would expect among unvaccinated children, based on previous experiences.

“The message to parents and pediatricians is, vaccinating your child against the chicken pox is also a good way to reduce their chances of getting herpes zoster,” lead study author and Kaiser Permanente research scientist HungFu Tseng stated. “More research is needed to identify the virus strains that cause herpes zoster.”

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Sandoz introduces hypertension generic

BY Alaric DeArment

PRINCETON, N.J. The generics arm of Swiss drug maker Novartis has introduced a version of a hypertension drug.

Sandoz announced the introduction of the injected drug nicardipine, a generic version of EKR Therapeutics’ Cardene, in 2.5 mg vials. The drug is designed for the short-term management of hypertension when treatment with orally administered drugs is not feasible.

Cardene had sales of $200 million during the 12-month period ended in September, according to IMS Health.

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Study finds life expectancy for young adults diminished by obesity

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK Though the number of Americans who smoke has decreased dramatically in recent years, increases in obesity threaten to erase potential gains in the average life expectancy of young adults, according to a new study.

A team of researchers, led by Susan Stewart of the nonprofit National Bureau of Economic Research, published the study Thursday in The New England Journal of Medicine, forecasting the life expectancy of the average 18-year-old between 2005 and 2020 by comparing data on smoking and obesity.

The researchers used National Health Interview Survey data on smoking from two-year intervals between 1978 and 2006, as well as past trends in body-mass index based on data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey in four- to six-year intervals between 1971 and 2006. They also factored in the 2003 Medical Expenditure Panel Survey to examine the effects of smoking and body-mass index on health-related quality of life.

While declining rates of smoking would increase the average life expectancy of 18-year-olds, increasing rates of obesity would push it back down by eight to 11 months, the researchers found. By contrast, if all adults in the United States became nonsmokers of normal weight, life expectancies would increase by up to five years.

“If past obesity trends continue unchecked, the negative effects on the health of the U.S. population will increasingly outweigh the positive effects gained from declining smoking rates,” the authors wrote. “Failure to address continued increases in obesity could result in an erosion of the pattern of steady gains in health observed since early in the 20th century.”

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