Three months after the CDC recommended all adults over the age of 60 receive Merck's Zostavax vaccine, the FDA has approved the shingles preventative for use in adults ages 50 to 59. The FDA approved Zostavax for adults over 60 five years ago. The virus attacks nerve endings, causing blisters and severe pain that can last for months or years after an outbreak. Approximately one in three people will develop shingles at some point in their lives, and 200,000 cases occur every year in adults ages 50 to 59.
According to a recent study, which the FDA took into account, Zostavax cut the risk of developing shingles by 70 percent in 50- to 59-year olds. The trial had 22,000 participants.
"This expanded indication is important for the health of people who are 50 and older because nearly everyone in that age group is at risk for developing shingles," said Jeffrey Silber, VP, Merck Research Laboratories, in a company statement.
Merck has reported some shortages of the vaccine, but it has filled most of the back-orders it received from late last year. The CDC recommends adults over 60 who have had a previous shingles outbreak still receive the shot to prevent another episode.