FDA approves Merck vaccine to treat shingles

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The FDA on Friday granted approval to Merck's Zostavax vaccine to treat patients over age 60 with the often-painful disease shingles.
"This vaccine gives healthcare providers an important tool that can help prevent an illness that affects many older Americans and often results in significant chronic pain," said Jesse Goodman, director of the FDA's Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research in a release.
Zostavax was studied in approximately 38,000 individuals throughout the US who were 60 years of age and older. Of these 38,000 people, half received Zostavax and half received a placebo. All study participants were then followed for an average of three years to see if they developed shingles and, if they did, how long the pain lasted.
At the conclusion of the study, researchers found that, overall, in those ages 60 and above the vaccine reduced the occurrence of shingles by about 50%. For individuals ages 60-69 it reduced occurrence by 64%.
Zostavax is priced at $152.50 for a single dose and Merck expects to begin shipping the vaccine soon.
However, analysts believe Zostavax sales will give only a minimal boost to a beleaguered Merck, with a predicted sales peak of $300 million annually by 2010.
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