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Novel shingles pain treatment launched in the UK

Grünenthal has annonunced that it has been granted a UK licence for its new product Versatis® (5% lidocaine medicated plaster). Versatis is licensed for the treatment of neuropathic pain associated with previous herpes zoster (shingles) infection, also known as postherpetic neuralgia (PHN).

Versatis offers a topical and nonsystemic approach for the treatment of localised neuropathic pain symptoms associated with PHN, often described as burning, shooting or stabbing. It is an innovative combination of the local anaesthetic lidocaine and a soft hydrogel plaster, combining efficacious treatment and simple handling with a proven tolerability and safety profile.

The plaster offers rapid and continuous pain relief 30 minutes after application. Following a once daily 12 hours-on/12 hours-off application schedule, up to three plasters can be used at one time. It can be used as monotherapy or in combination with patient's existing analgesia, and clinical trials have shown no clinically relevant drug interactions.

The launch of Versatis coincides with the announcement of a new survey that shows the impact of PHN on quality of life. Conducted by the Barts Pain Research Group, the survey reveals that over 80% of respondents felt that PHN had negatively affected their ability to enjoy life, while almost 50% felt suicidal or depressed as a result of PHN.

Apart from the psychological impact of PHN, the condition has a significant impact on day-to-day activities, such as work, sleep and even getting dressed, with one in three people not being able to participate in any day-to-day activities before treatment. In addition, 92% of patients continued to suffer pain even while on treatment and over two-thirds are dissatisfied with existing treatment options.

Dr Martin Johnson, GP in Ashville Medical Practice, Barnsley and chair of RCGP Pain Committee, said: "Even though the management of chronic pain is a constant challenge to healthcare professionals, it is poorly addressed during undergraduate and postgraduate medical education. This can often lead to misdiagnosis of PHN, underutilisation of effective treatments and also unnecessary referrals with subsequent distressing waits for the patients."

"Versatis offers clinicians an effective and well-tolerated new treatment option for people suffering the debilitating shooting, stabbing and burning pain symptoms following shingles," said Professor Richard Langford, professor of Anaesthesia and Pain Medicine at St Bartholomew's Hospital, London. "It is generally older people who develop postherpetic neuralgia after shingles and hence with their multiple morbidities and medications, the very low systemic level of lidocaine during Versatis use minimises concerns about contraindications and drug interactions."