Higher dose versus lower dose of antiviral therapy in the treatment of herpes zoster infection in the elderly: a matched retrospective population-based cohort study
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BACKGROUND: Higher versus lower doses of antiviral drugs used to treat herpes zoster infection may lead to more adverse drug events in older adults, particularly those with chronic kidney disease. METHODS: We conducted a matched retrospective population-based cohort study of older adults (mean 77 years) in Ontario, Canada who initiated in the outpatient setting a higher (n = 23,256) or lower (n = 3,876) dose of one of three oral antivirals for the treatment of herpes zoster between 2002 and 2011. The primary outcome was hospitalization within 30 days with evidence of a computed tomography (CT) scan of the head (a proxy for acute neurotoxicity). The secondary outcome was 30-day all-cause mortality. RESULTS: A higher compared to lower dose of antiviral drug was not associated with an increased risk of hospitalization with an urgent CT scan of the head (247 [1.06%] events with higher dose versus 43 [1.11%] events with lower dose, relative risk 0.96, 95% confidence interval 0.69 to 1.33, p-value 0.79) and was not associated with a higher risk of all-cause mortality (63 [0.27%] events versus 15 [0.39%] events, relative risk 0.70, 95% confidence interval 0.40 to 1.23, p-value 0.21). Results were consistent in all subgroups, including those with and without chronic kidney disease. CONCLUSIONS: Initiating a higher compared to a lower dose of an antiviral drug for the treatment of herpes zoster was not associated with an increased risk of adverse drug events. The findings support the safety of these drugs in older adults as currently prescribed in routine care.
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