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LOCAL STUDY TO ANSWER QUESTIONS ABOUT CHICKENPOX TREATMENT

 MINNEAPOLIS, March 9 /PRNewswire/ -- Park Nicollet Medical Center, in conjunction with the University of Minnesota, is conducting a study of the drug acyclovir for the treatment of chickenpox.
 The study will include 200 adolescents, adults and children, and is designed to answer several controversial questions that have arisen since the 1992 FDA-licensure of acyclovir for chickenpox treatment. Those questions include:
 -- What is the effect of "delayed" therapy? Studies to date have shown efficacy if the drug is started within 24 hours of the onset of rash. This study will determine if the drug is helpful if initiated within 48 or 72 hours of the first sign of chickenpox.
 -- Is there benefit in a longer treatment period? The study will compare 5 days of treatment with 7 days.
 -- Can acyclovir reduce scarring?
 -- Can the virus develop resistance to the drug?
 "There has been widespread and often heated discussion among pediatricians and other physicians about the appropriateness of acyclovir to treat chickenpox," said Dr. Renner Anderson, a Park Nicollet Medical Center pediatrician and vice president of research for Park Nicollet Medical Foundation. "We hope to provide information that will help pediatricians and their patients decide what is the appropriate treatment and when it should be given. The other important aspect of the study is to determine the effect of acyclovir treatment of chickenpox in adults, who can become extremely sick with chickenpox."
 Chickenpox is caused by a virus called varicella-zoster virus (VZV). Acyclovir is an antiviral drug, manufactured by Burroughs Wellcome Co., which is already approved by the FDA for treating chickenpox and other diseases caused by a related virus, herpes simplex virus, and for treating shingles, which is caused by a reactivation of VZV, usually later in life.
 Chickenpox is a highly contagious disease, usually accompanied by fever and crops of blisters on the skin. Although chickenpox is usually a mild disease of childhood, its severity can vary from the usual case -- a mild rash -- to uncommon but life-threatening complications that include encephalitis (an inflammation of the brain), pneumonia and bleeding disorders. The rash may leave permanent scars on the skin.
 Acyclovir, when given within 24 hours of onset of rash, has been shown in three different studies to be an effective treatment for otherwise healthy children and adolescents with chickenpox. It has reduced the period of fever and itching, and shortened the time it takes the pox to begin to clear by at least one day. Based on these studies, acyclovir was approved by the FDA in 1992 for use in the treatment of chickenpox.
 However, since children and adolescents whose rash was more than 24 hours old were excluded from these studies, it is not known how late in the course of illness acyclovir can be given and still be helpful. The present study is designed to answer the question of delayed vs. immediate treatment. It will also provide viral specimens for laboratory studies to learn if this virus changes in it susceptibility to the drug with treatment, which is an indication that persons are becoming resistant.
 Besides Anderson, the study's co-investigator at Park Nicollet Medical Center is Dr. David Williams, a specialist in infectious diseases. At the University, Dr. Henry H. Balfour, Jr., also an infectious diseases specialist, heads the research study.
 To participate in the study, persons must be 2 years of age or older (parental consent required for ages 2-18), must have had the chickenpox rash for less than 48 hours and must be in otherwise good health. For more information or to participate in the study, call 612-927-3083 at Park Nicollet or 612-625-1462 at the University of Minnesota.
 PRESS CONFERENCE
 A press conference will be held Wednesday, March 10 at 9 a.m. to announce the start of a new study of the treatment of chickenpox in adults, adolescents and children. In addition to the study's investigator, pediatrician Renner Anderson, M.D., there will be a child with chickenpox at the press conference to help illustrate the story.
 The conference will be held in the Dwan A conference room on the seventh floor north of Park Nicollet Medical Center, 5000 West 39th St., St. Louis Park, Minn.
 -0- 3/9/93
 CONTACT: For more information on the press conference, Amy Pak of Park Nicollet, 612-927-3740.


CO: Park Nicollet Medical Center, University of Minnesota ST: Minnesota IN: MTC SU:

AL -- MN010 -- 4565 03/09/93 13:49 EST
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Date:Mar 9, 1993
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