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Studying a drug to curtail shingles pain By Barbara Ruben As most people who have had shingles know, the searing pain is often worse than the unsightly crusted blisters that form on their skin. “Acute shingles pain is nerve pain. That is typically a burning, electrical, sharp, ice pick pain,” said Dr. Stephen Minton, who

is leading a study on shingles pain at Alexandria Clinical Research. Usually, shingles — caused by the chicken pox virus, which can lie dormant in the body for decades — lasts about a month. For an unlucky 10 to 15 percent of those who have had shingles, however, the pain persists for much longer, and possibly for

the rest of their lives. The older patients are when they get shingles, the more likely they will have chronic pain — called post-herpetic neuralgia. Minton and other researchers across the country are now studying an investigational drug dubbed FV-100 to see if it might prevent or limit the duration of pain in shingles patients when it is taken soon after the shingles rash appears. “We know 85 percent of people are going to do fine. They just need to get through this one-month period. But if we had something we could give people and say, ‘this is going to reduce the chance you’ll be cursed with the complications of shingles for the rest of your life,’ that’s going to become first line treatment,” Minton said. “I don’t think anyone has ever really tried to reduce this post-herpetic neuralgia problem. I think [the study] is unique, and if it turns out it’s successful, it’s going to be a real winner.”

Get to the doctor right away There is a very small window of time to begin taking FV-100 to have a chance of reducing long-term shingles pain, however. Patients must start taking the antiviral drug within 72 hours of the first appearance of shingles blisters. That means potential study volunteers have to act fast — at the first sign of shingles — in order to be eligible for the study. “I think the key thing is, if folks realize they have unexplained pain followed by a rash, that’s the unique sequence of events [indicating shingles]. The rash initially is

not very spectacular. It’s only days into the rash, beyond the 72 hours, that the rash gets horribly crusty and awful looking.” The current antiviral medication given to shingles patients, valacyclovir, must also be taken within 72 hours of getting the rash. While it has been shown to reduce the duration of shingles, it has not been evaluated in reducing post-shingles pain.

All participants get meds In the study, FV-100 will be compared with valacyclovir. All patients in the study will be getting one of these two drugs. The study will compare taking FV-100 once a day or twice a day and valacyclovir three times a day. Neither the patients nor the researchers will know who is in which group. Those in the study will take their assigned medication for one week and will make follow-up visits to Alexandria Clinical Research in Virginia for four months to be monitored for shingles pain. Patients will make up to 12 visits in all to the clinic, and will be compensated for each visit. In addition to having the shingles rash for 72 hours or less, to take part in the study, patients must be age 50 or older and have shingles-related pain. They cannot have shingles on their face, their eyes or mouth. They also cannot have received the shingles vaccine. For more information, call Alexandria Clinical Research at (571) 286-8083 or visit to find additional sites. Keep this information handy, in case you develop shingles in the future and want to participate in this study.

September 2015 | DC Beacon  

September 2015 | DC Beacon Edition

September 2015 | DC Beacon  

September 2015 | DC Beacon Edition