Medication Approved to Reduce Chickenpox Symptoms
Some people are at increased risk for severe chickenpox infection and complications from chickenpox. In these people, exposure to the virus that causes chickenpox (varicella zoster) can be very serious, and may sometimes even be fatal. In December 2012, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a varicella zoster immune globulin drug called VariZIG to help reduce this risk.
VariZIG is administered within 4 days (96 hours) of exposure to the chickenpox virus, in two or more injections (depending on the person's weight). It is approved for use in the following people who have been exposed to varicella zoster virus (VZV):
- Children and adults with a compromised immune system
- Women who are pregnant
- Newborns, premature infants, and babies under the age of 1
- Adults without immunity to VZV (people who have never been exposed to chickenpox
VariZIG is the only varicella zoster immune globulin (VZIG) approved for use in the United States at this time. The drug is produced using plasma (the liquid component of blood) from healthy donors who have a high level of VZV antibodies. The donated plasma is obtained from FDA-licensed collection centers in the United States and Canada. Production of another FDA-approved VZIG was discontinued by the manufacturer in 2004, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Studies show that VariZIG lowers the rate of severe chickenpox infection and complications in high-risk people compared to those who are not treated and that it's safe when used as directed. Side effects of VariZIG include headache and pain at the injection site(s).
Sources: Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)