Epidemiology and cost of herpes zoster and postherpetic neuralgia in Germany
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After acquiring a varicella virus infection, the virus can reactivate and cause herpes zoster (HZ)—a painful skin rash. A complication of HZ is long-term persistence of pain after the rash has resolved (so-called postherpetic neuralgia, PHN). We aimed to describe the epidemiology of HZ/PHN and to estimate HZ/PHN-related costs in the German statutory health insurance (SHI) system (~85 % of the total population). Treatment data of one large SHI was utilized, containing data on approximately 240,000 insured and their utilisation of services in 2004–2009. Identification of HZ- and PHN-cases was performed based on ‘International Statistical Classification of Diseases’ and specific medications using a control-group design. Incidences per 1,000 person-years (PY) and cost-of-illness for 1 year following HZ-onset considering the payer and societal perspective were calculated. All amounts were inflated to 2010 Euros. Population-figures were standardised and extrapolated to the total SHI-population in Germany in 2010. A mean annual incidence of 5.79 HZ-cases per 1,000 PY was observed, translating into an estimated 403,625 HZ-cases per year in the total SHI-population. Approximately 5 % of HZ-cases developed PHN. One HZ-case caused on average €210 and €376 of costs from the payer and societal perspective, respectively. The development of PHN generated additional costs of €1,123 (€1,645 societal perspective). Total annual HZ/PHN-related costs were estimated at €182 million (€105 million) to society (payer). HZ and PHN place a considerable burden on the German SHI-system. Since HZ-vaccines will soon be available, a health-economic evaluation of these vaccines should be conducted.