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Treatment and prevention of postherpetic neuralgia.

There have been 4 recent major advances in the treatment of postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) that are based on the results of randomized, controlled trials. These advances are the demonstrations that gabapentin, the lidocaine patch 5%, and opioid analgesics are efficacious in patients with PHN, and the report that nortriptyline and amitriptyline provide equivalent analgesic benefits for patients with PHN but that nortriptyline is better tolerated. The results of these clinical trials are briefly reviewed, and their implications for the treatment of patients with PHN are discussed. Despite these treatment advances, many patients remain refractory to current therapy, and the prevention of PHN has therefore become an important focus of current research. Research on administration of the varicella-zoster vaccine to prevent herpes zoster and on treatment of patients who have herpes zoster with combined antiviral and analgesic therapy to prevent PHN is discussed.

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