Have Patients Who Forgot to Get the Shingles Vaccine? Compounded Pain Medications Can Help
Toby is a fantastic grandfather—he prides himself in his ability to babysit his granddaughter, takes her to museums and parks, and even cares for her when she’s sick—and kids get sick a lot. Last month, Toby was at the pharmacy to pick up antibiotics for her earache.
“What a good grandpa you are,” a lady in the waiting area told him.
“Thanks,” he replied, “but this is nothing compared to her chickenpox. I was up all night telling her stories about when I had it.”
The lady fussed and told him that chickenpox is contagious.
“Not if you’ve already had it.”
This is where the pharmacist steps in to clarify that Toby’s right—he isn’t at risk for chickenpox, but he is at risk for a related disease: shingles. There is a shingles vaccine on the market, aimed at patients 60 and over, that offers 51-67% protection1. A more effective vaccine is in development, again with the senior population in mind. The problem is, most seniors don’t even know about the current vaccine, at least not until after they end up with shingles.
There is no cure for shingles; however, pain creams, patches, and other compounded pain medications can offer much-needed relief to patients who develop the painful rashes and blisters that are the hallmark of shingles.
Pharmacists Can Help Patients Realize the Value of the Shingles Vaccine
Many patients don’t realize that once they have chicken pox, the virus (varicella-zoster) lies dormant in the body, and years later can reappear as shingles. The older a patient ages, the weaker his immune system gets, and the higher his risk for getting shingles increases. Sudden activation of the virus can cause symptoms such as2:
- Painful rashes;
- Burning, shooting, stabbing pain;
- Confusion and fatigue;
- Fever, headache, and other pains.
There’s been a lot of controversy in the media about vaccines. Pharmacists often get asked about ‘facts’ that have been contorted by false studies and mistaken beliefs. For most healthy patients, especially the younger ones, we know to confirm that vaccinations on an appropriate schedule are the best way to protect against disease. As patients age, though, vaccinations become more about their kids and travel shots. By the time patients have grandkids, vaccinations might seem a thing of the past. Here, again, the pharmacist is poised to inform their older patients that vaccinations are still important3, especially regarding chickenpox and shingles. With respect to shingles, elderly people have an increased risk of disease-related complications, such as:
- Contracting shingles-related pneumonia;
- Developing infections and white patches in areas of the skin rash;
- Developing ulcers and scars in the eyes;
- Feeling earaches, deafness, dizziness, and paralysis of the face;
- Experiencing inflammation in the brain.
Patients who contract shingles may also be at a higher risk for developing stroke.
Pharmacists are often a great resource to increase rates of shingles vaccination, but we can also help patients who missed their vaccine with compounded pain medications.
How Can Compounded Pain Medications Help?
The biggest barrier to avoiding shingles is to get patients interested in the vaccine. Oftentimes, though, older patients go to their physician with specific complaints and end up not hearing about newer, unrelated treatments. Other times, patients may know about the vaccine but are worried about cost. In turn, that lack of interest can result in higher costs and lower insurance coverage of a medicine that can save patients enormous pain.4
Patient education, especially in terms of preventive care, is key.5 But when a patient foregoes the vaccine, pharmacists need to help her get relief from sores that can easily become inflamed or infected. Pain relief options can reduce the severity of the disease, and include:
- Topical analgesic creams, such as Lidocaine and antihistamines;
- OTC pain relief medications;
- Wet compresses and lotions;
- Anti-virals, such as acyclovir;
Naturopathic medicines and baths may also offer some relief.
As with many preventable healthcare issues, pharmacists are well positioned to offer patients the knowledge and treatment they need to make informed choices about their health. Steps we should take include:
- Understanding barriers to vaccination; preventive care is still the best route for avoiding shingles;
- Knowing what symptoms to look for and what questions to ask in terms of medical history;
- Offering immediate pain relief options—shingles rash can come with excruciating pain that lasts for some time;
- Helping patients understand what longer term complications they should ask their physicians about;
- Keeping an eye out for newer vaccines so that you can inform patients about improvements to help them shy away from shingles altogether.
Shingles may not be curable, yet, but the disease doesn’t have to be a source of great pain later in life. We should consider our role as a valuable resource point for patients at risk. With our help, they may be more likely to avoid the discomfort and complications associated with the illness and continue enjoying a healthy lifestyle.
At Pharmaceutica North America, we are passionate about great health for all of our patients. An illness that affects the smallest person in a family can translate into health issues for the oldest family member. We are passionate about understanding how pain transfers and translates for all of our patients. The steps for treating each of them include safe and high-quality compounding materials, ideal delivery paths, and kits. Contact us today to learn how we can help you offer your patients the best care possible.
- “Shingles Vaccination: What Everyone Should Know,” September 11, 2015, http://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd-vac/shingles/vacc-need-know.htm ↩
- “Engineering A Shingles Vaccine That Doesn’t Wimp Out Over Time,” July 13, 2015, http://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2015/07/13/421570746/engineering-a-shingles-vaccine-that-doesnt-wimp-out-over-time ↩
- “The 6 Vaccines All Parents (and Grandparents) Need,” 2015, http://www.parents.com/health/vaccines/vaccination-types/vaccines-parents-and-grandparents-need/ ↩
- “Shingles Vaccine Proves Painful,” September 25, 2007, http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/09/21/AR2007092101818.html ↩
- “Soothing Shingles,” January 16, 2014, http://www.pharmacytimes.com/publications/issue/2014/january2014/soothing-shingles ↩