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 /ADVANCE/ NEW ORLEANS, Oct. 20 /PRNewswire/ -- Treatment with an experimental drug provides relief to adults who suffer from a common and painful viral disease, a recent study has shown. The disease, herpes zoster, commonly known as "shingles," is caused by the varicella-zoster virus (VZV), the same virus that causes chicken pox.
 Stephen K. Tyring, M.D., Ph.D., principal investigator of the Collaborative Famciclovir Herpes Zoster Study Group, reports that famciclovir is a safe and effective treatment of herpes zoster and significantly shortens the duration of post-herpetic neuralgia, a painful complication that affects about 50 percent of shingles patients over the age of 60. Dr. Tyring presented the findings here today at the 33rd Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy.
 "Shingles is an often-misunderstood and painful disease that deserves new and better treatment options," said Dr. Tyring, professor of Dermatology, Microbiology and Internal Medicine at The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. "These results are very promising."
 Shingles: Signs and Symptoms
 Anyone who has had chicken pox can develop shingles. According to the VZV Research Foundation, an estimated one in five people will develop shingles during a 75-year lifetime, with the incidence and severity increasing with age and lowered immunity.
 Most often the disease is characterized by blister-like sores that appear in a band across the trunk (the name shingles comes from the Latin word cingulum meaning "girdle"), but may involve the face and eyes. Early symptoms, even before the appearance of lesions, are pain and peculiar tingling sensations. A few days later, the skin erupts into a rash with tiny blisters that are extremely sensitive to all stimuli, including heat, cold or touch.
 One of the most common complications of shingles is post-herpetic neuralgia (PHN) pain that persists even after the shingles lesions have healed. In some patients, post-herpetic neuralgia can be very debilitating and last months or years.
 Promising Results
 In a placebo-controlled, double-blind study involving 419 patients with herpes zoster (specifically those with onset of zoster rash within 72 hours of study entry), study patients, who averaged 50 years of age, were randomized to receive famciclovir (500 mg or 750 mg) or placebo three times daily for seven days. Famciclovir was well tolerated, and no significant differences were observed between the safety profiles of famciclovir and placebo.
 Famciclovir doses of 500 mg and 750 mg three times daily significantly reduced the time to healing of zoster lesions (i.e., time to full crusting, loss of vesicles (blisters), loss of ulcers and loss of crusts) vs. placebo. In addition, famciclovir-treated patients presenting with severe rash (more than 50 lesions) experienced pain relief faster than those who received placebo.
 Positive Effects on Post-Herpetic Neuralgia (PHN)
 The duration of post-herpetic neuralgia pain following healing was significantly shorter in patients who received famciclovir (500 mg or 750 mg) rather than placebo. In the group of patients most likely to experience PHN, i.e., those patients more than 50 years of age, patients who received famciclovir lost pain more than 2-1/2 times faster than patients who received placebo.
 "The findings of this study suggest that early intervention with famciclovir offers significant benefit to the patient with shingles by hastening healing of the rash and shortening the duration of post-herpetic neuralgia," said Dr. Tyring. "The convenient three-times-a-day dosing is likely to enhance patient compliance," he added.
 This study was supported by a grant from SmithKline Beecham Pharmaceuticals.
 -0- 10/20/93/1330
 /NOTE TO EDITORS: For more information, or to arrange an interview with principal investigator Dr. Stephen Tyring, call the contact below./
 /CONTACT: Becky Walsdorf of the University of Texas at Galveston, 409-772-2618/

CO: The University of Texas at Galveston; Collaborative Famciclovir
 Herpes Zoster Study Group ST: Louisiana, Texas IN: MTC SU:

TW-TS -- NY004 -- 4360 10/20/93 08:10 EDT
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Oct 20, 1993

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