Local doctors work: Ending shingles-related pain
Local doctors are involved in clinical trials for a promising new drug to treat the chronic pain often associated with severe cases of shingles. The aim is to prevent the disabling post herpetic neuralgia, the debilitating pain that can last long after the telltale shingles rash disappears. “There is nothing on the market today that has been shown to prevent that disabling, burning electrical pain that many folks suffer,” says Dr. Stephen Minton, an internist in Alexandria, Virginia, who is conducting a trial through Alexandria Clinical Research. Patients who had just developed shingles were the participants in the clinical trial who get the new medication within 72 hours after the telltale rash, and are then monitored to see if the drug lowers their risk of persistent pain.
Minton says adding to these medications has led to emphasis of research on shingles, a reactivation of the chickenpox virus in the body that can bring about harm to nerve fibers. “We’re working now to find solutions for that problem,” he says, adding that a new medication for post herpetic neuralgia could revolutionize the treatment of the disease. “If we can prevent that, that will make a sea change in the amount of disability that we get from shingles,” Minton says, noting chronic pain is the worst complication of the disease; as he is testing a drug from Novartis, which has worked well in earlier trials.
The National Institutes of Health is also involved in research on shingles, and the Centers for Disease and Prevention has been keeping tabs on the prevalence of the disease. According to CDC, one in every three Americans have chances to develop shingles at some point in their lifetime, and there are about one million cases each year. While children and young adults can get it, about half of all the cases occur in men and women who are at least 60 years old.