Herpes zoster and its complications could lead to more than $2.4 billion in direct medical costs and productivity losses annually in the United States, according to study results published in the journal Pain.1

The CDC estimates that 1 of every 3 people in the United States will develop herpes zoster, commonly called shingles, in their lifetimes. Although the risk of shingles increases with age, the CDC also noted that children can contract herpes zoster. Anyone who has contracted chickenpox can contract herpes zoster.2

Two shingles vaccines are licensed and recommended in the United States. Zoster vaccine live has been available since 2006, whereas the recombinant zoster vaccine has been in use since 2017 and is recommended by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices as the preferred shingles vaccine.2

Using a patient-level microsimulation model, investigators projected economic and health outcomes among US adults 18 years and older using a 10-year time horizon. Projected outcomes for an unvaccinated population included 1.1 million herpes zoster cases, 114,000 postherpetic neuralgia cases, and 43,000 ocular cases annually.1 This total would result in about 67,000 quality-adjusted life years, according to the authors.1

In the microsimulation models, projected quality-adjusted life years were most sensitive to the probability of herpes zoster and postherpetic neuralgia health utility values.

Cost estimates were most sensitive to the probability of herpes zoster and to the cost per episode of postherpetic neuralgia.1

  1. Harvey M, Prosser LA, Rose AM, Ortega-Sanchez IR, Harpaz R. Aggregate health and economic burden of herpes zoster in the United States: illustrative example of a pain condition. Pain. 2020;161(2):361-368. doi: 10.1097/j.pain.0000000000001718.
  2. Shingles (herpes zoster). CDC website. cdc.gov/shingles/index.html. Updated June 26, 2019. Accessed February 4, 2020.