Poirrier J-E, Carrico J, DeMartino JK, Hicks KA, Stoddard JJ, Nagar S, Meyers J. The potential for reducing opioid and analgesic prescriptions via herpes zoster vaccination. Poster presented at the IDWeek 2020 Virtual Conference; October 21, 2020.

BACKGROUND: Herpes zoster (HZ), or shingles, is a common neurocutaneous disease caused by the reactivation of latent varicella zoster virus that often includes rash and neuropathic pain that may last for months. Opioids and other analgesics may be prescribed. Recombinant zoster vaccine (RZV) is preferentially recommended for the prevention of HZ in adults aged 50 years and older. This study aimed to assess the impact of RZV vaccination on opioid and other analgesic prescription-related outcomes.

METHODS: Estimates of analgesic prescription rates (opioids, benzodiazepines, and other analgesics) among HZ cases were established using Truven claims data from 2012-2018 for adults aged 50 years and older. HZ case avoidance with RZV vaccination was calculated using a previously published cost-effectiveness model. This data was included in a calculator assessing the impact of RZV vaccination on analgesic prescription-related outcomes (compared to no vaccination).

RESULTS: Between 24.4% and 28.0% of HZ cases in the observed claims had at least one opioid prescription, dependent on age group (4.5%-6.5% and 8.6%-19.6% for benzodiazepines and other analgesics, respectively). The mean number of opioid prescriptions per person in each age group with at least one opioid prescription was between 1.7 and 1.9 (1.7-2.3 and 1.7-2.0 prescriptions for benzodiazepines and other analgesics, respectively). Assuming a 1-million-person population and 65% RZV coverage, the calculator predicts RZV vaccination will prevent 75,002 cases of HZ and will prevent 19,311 people from being prescribed at least 1 HZ-related opioid, 4,502 people from being prescribed benzodiazepines, and 12,201 people from being prescribed other analgesics. Additionally, 34,520 HZ-related opioid prescriptions will be avoided (9,413 benzodiazepine prescriptions; 22,406 other analgesic prescriptions).

CONCLUSION: HZ is associated with high levels of opioid, benzodiazepine, and other analgesic use. Primary prevention of HZ by vaccination could potentially reduce opioid and other medication exposure.

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