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Survey Reveals New INSIGHTS Into Genital Herpes


( - November 15, 2003) Results of an international survey reveal that diagnosed patients need more information about genital herpes – a sexually transmitted disease that has reached epidemic proportions – in order to better manage the condition and protect against associated public health risks. The INSIGHTS survey, presented last spring by the International Herpes Management Forum (IHMF) and the International Herpes Alliance (IHA) at the 10th annual IHMF meeting in Paris, France, uncovered concerns about diagnostic methods and impact on social relations, and treatment.

The survey revealed that patients in the U.S. reported major concerns upon being diagnosed with genital herpes including how it would affect their sex life (57%), how easily the virus could be transmitted to someone else (38%), and whether it was curable (34%). In addition, almost all U.S. patient respondents said that genital herpes affected their sex life (94%). While 65 percent of respondents take antiviral medication when they have an outbreak (episodically), only 33 percent use antiviral medications regularly. But, when asked how likely they would be to take medication daily to significantly reduce the frequency and severity of outbreaks, 85 percent of respondents said they would likely do so.

“I was surprised to see that such a small percentage of respondents did not know that for many patients, suppressive therapy could reduce the number and severity of their outbreaks,” said Jennifer Berman, M.D., best-selling author and co-director of the Female Sexual Medicine Center at UCLA. “Clearly, there’s a need for more patient education regarding treatment approaches.”

The results also unveiled significant levels of patient dissatisfaction with the care they receive upon diagnosis. In particular, 79 percent of U.S. respondents said their healthcare professional spent 15 minutes or less discussing the diagnosis. One out of two patients (51%) said they were dissatisfied with the information and advice provided about the physical aspects of the condition (e.g., symptoms, pain management). In addition, the majority of patients (60%) were also dissatisfied with the social and emotional counseling provided by their healthcare professional, and many (40%) felt their healthcare professional was unsympathetic.

“A diagnosis of genital herpes may not only have a physical impact on patients, but an emotional one as well. A climate needs to be established so that patients can feel comfortable discussing STDs like genital herpes with their healthcare professional to ensure that they get the correct diagnosis and treatment,” said Lisa Gilbert, Ph.D., Director of Research, American Social Health Association (ASHA).

Following the presentation of the survey results, Novartis announced its plans to launch RELIEF, a six-month clinical study (Randomized, Episodic vs. Long-term suppressIon Experience with Famvir) that will explore the benefits of suppressive therapy versus episodic therapy with an oral antiviral medication, FamvirR (famciclovir). This information may prove useful for physicians in selecting a treatment regimen appropriate for their patients. Famvir is indicated in the U.S. for the treatment or suppression of recurrent genital herpes in immunocompetent patients. The efficacy of Famvir has not been established for initial episode genital herpes infection. The safety and efficacy of Famvir for suppressive therapy have not been established beyond one year. No antiviral has been proven to prevent the transmission of genital herpes. In clinical trials, the most commonly reported side effects were headache, nausea, and diarrhea.

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