PHARMACY

Study: Chickenpox cases plummet since vaccine introduced

BY Alaric DeArment

NEW YORK A new report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that a vaccine for chickenpox launched in 1995 has reduced the number of cases by 57 percent to 90 percent across the country.

According to the report, published Tuesday in the journal Pediatrics, chickenpox affected 4 million Americans a year before the vaccine was developed.

Now that use of the vaccine is widespread, deaths related to the disease, caused by a virus related to the ones that cause genital herpes and mononucleosis, in children ages 1 through 9 have decreased by about 90 percent, the study showed. Vaccination prevents 85 percent of infections in general, as well as 95 percent of the severe infections that have resulted in hospitalization and death.

Children who received a single combined vaccine -protecting against chickenpox as well as measles, mumps and rubella- were twice as likely to develop fever and seizures, compared with those who got the chickenpox shot separately from the measles/mumps/rubella vaccine, the study shows.

About 5 percent of negative reactions to the vaccine have been serious, causing problems such as pneumonia and hepatitis, the study shows. All of those problems occurred in patients with serious but previously undiagnosed medical conditions.

Because the vaccine is new, doctors don’t yet know how long its protection will last, and doctors also are closely studying how the vaccine will affect cases of shingles. That condition occurs when the chickenpox virus N which has been hibernating in the body for years or decades-suddenly re-emerges, causing painful sores, said William Schaffner, a board member of the Infectious Diseases Society of America. Shingles can affect both those who have had chickenpox as well as those who avoided chickenpox through vaccination. Experts recommend that adults over 60 get a shingles vaccine, because the condition becomes more common later in life.

So far, studies suggest that the shingles rate is lower among vaccinated children.

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PHARMACY

Rx Response mobilizes to respond to Hurricane Gustav

BY Alaric DeArment

WASHINGTON With Hurricane Gustav barely missing New Orleans, several retail pharmacy, pharmaceutical and medical industry organizations have mobilized to respond.

Rx Response’s purpose is to provide a single point of contact between emergency management officials and the pharmaceutical supply system. It uses a network that allows the officials to communicate with it concerning issues that might affect the supply system, such as pharmaceutical needs. For example, public health officials in Louisiana and Alabama have asked it for a list of pharmacies that closed when Gustav made landfall so that they could direct patients to operating pharmacies.

The organization began almost two years ago in response to Hurricane Katrina and the threat of pandemic influenza. Its members include the American Hospital Association, the American Red Cross, the Biotechnology Industry Organization, the Generic Pharmaceutical Association, the Healthcare Distribution Management Association, the National Association of Chain Drug Stores, the National Community Pharmacists Association and the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America.

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Old anti-itching drug may become new hepatitis treatment

BY Alaric DeArment

STANFORD, Calif. Researchers at Stanford University have found a possible new way to combat hepatitis C, according to a report published online in the Aug. 31 issue of Nature Biotechnology.

The researchers found that clemizole hydrochloride, an anti-itching drug, hindered a protein in the hepatitis C virus called NS4B, which is crucial to the virus’ replication without harming cells similar to those found in the liver, which the virus targets.

“We’re excited about this, and we’re actively moving forward toward clinical trials,” said Dr. Jeffrey Glenn, an associate professor of gastroenterology and hepatology at Stanford.

Glenn said that if it proves effective in human trials, clemizole could become an essential component in a new class of multi-drug treatments for hepatitis C.

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