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High Costs Associated with Treating Shingles Pain

A strategy for preventing shingles could reduce the high cost of treating patients for persistent pain

MONDAY, Aug. 13 (HealthDay News) -- Undiagnosed progression of herpes zoster results in millions of dollars in additional health care expenditures to treat patients with persistent pain, suggesting the need for early interventions, according to the results of a study in the August issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Robert Dworkin, Ph.D., of the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in Rochester, N.Y., and colleagues analyzed Medicare, Medicaid and commercial claims databases to evaluate the health care expenses of 8,657 patients diagnosed with herpes zoster, 3,132 with postherpetic neuralgia (PHN), and 7,791 with possible PHN. Patients from all three insurance types were matched to control groups and compared for one year.

The costs associated with analgesic treatments for shingles patients in pain, which usually disappears within 30 days, nearly doubled for Medicare patients with PHN -- persistent pain beyond 120 days of a rash -- and for those with possible PHN ($1,298 to $2,292). Annual health care expenses soared as much as five times higher for patients with PHN and possible PHN, compared to those with herpes zoster ($757 to $5,742).

"Our results can provide a basis for cost-effectiveness analyses of existing treatments for PHN. Because many patients with PHN are completely or partially refractory to these treatments, the development of interventions to prevent herpes zoster and PHN has become a research priority," the authors write.

This study was funded by grants from Endo Pharmaceuticals. The lead author also reports receiving research support and consulting fees from Allergan, Cephalon and other pharmaceutical firms.

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