Shingrix Shortages Occurring As Doctors Move Away From Zostavax

GlaxoSmithKline claims it is experiencing a shortage of Shingrix, which comes as more doctors choose the newer shingles vaccine over Zostavax, which studies have shown to be less effective, and may actually increase the risk of severe and more persistent shingles outbreaks. 

According to a report published this week by FiercePharma, a GlaxoSmithKline spokesperson indicated that Shingrix vaccine supplies will be strained throughout 2019, due to high demand. The company reportedly did not expect the sudden increase in demand for the vaccine since it was introduced late last year, and has been unable to keep up.

Shingrix (recombinant zoster vaccine; RZV) was the second vaccine approved for prevention of shingles among adults, which involves two doses for inoculation. When it was introduced, Zostavax (varicella zoster vaccine; VZV) was the only shingles vaccine on the market, involving a single dose.

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A number of factors could be affecting the shortage at once, including higher overall rates of vaccination among doctors, and a large, aging baby boomer population reaching the age where shingles vaccines are advised.

However, the report comes amid growing concerns among consumers and the medical community about side effects of the Zostavax vaccine, following reports that an “under-attenuated” live virus contained in that older vaccine may actually cause some users to develop more severe shingles outbreaks and other complications.

Last month, a study was also published in The BMJ, which found that Shingrix is 85% more effective at preventing shingles than Zostavax, further accelerating the move away from Zostavax by many doctors.

In addition to declining sales for their older shingles vaccine, Merck also faces a growing number of Zostavax lawsuits filed in recent months by individuals nationwide, each involving similar allegations that the drug maker failed to adequately research their vaccine before introducing it to the market, or warn that the “under-attenuated” live virus may increase the risk of problems it was designed to prevent.

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