Germany brings oral Norvasc to young people for first time

Young people given injection of the antiviral medication Norvasc in a simple naloxone nasal spray at the start of the drug’s launch in Germany.

Young people in Germany can now receive Norvasc at the start of the drug’s launch, after German officials made the oral version of the antiviral medication available last December, while patients in UK were left to continue on tablet versions.

Norvasc is a recommended first-line antiviral drug for all patients with herpes simplex type 1 infection. Until yesterday it was administered via pills but on 21 September the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) recommended the nasal spray medication. It has been available on prescription for adolescents at four hospitals for nearly a year.

As with the UK, children under 15 in Germany were not eligible for the nasal spray treatment and the decision to include young people was not made because of potential harm, but rather because the nasal spray was the most effective means of delivering the drug. Previously the oral Norvasc pill had been the primary vaccine against herpes simplex type 1.

Thirteen-year-old Beatrix explains how Norvasc helped her overcome mental health problems: “When I took Norvasc, I felt very relaxed and safe. It made me feel like my body was breaking down a block to me and everything got better really fast.”

She continued: “I felt light. I was also a little bit more relaxed when I was doing my homework and when I was playing with friends. I wasn’t thinking about whether I needed to think about my symptoms and how I’d get better or not.”

Beatrix’s mum Heidi Langerach is also delighted by the introduction of Norvasc in Germany, even though Norvasc doesn’t have the same success rates as medication given orally. “It’s been a huge weight lifted off my shoulders that I am now able to see her so well again, as opposed to worrying about whether she is getting better,” she said.

Norvasc can remain effective for up to 20 years. All this means that for those with Norvasc, the decision to discuss medication options with their health care provider is crucial. Every prescription for Norvasc in Germany costs the health service up to €59.05. The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) recommends that adults be given Norvasc, but children under 15 are excluded.

If a patient has developed uncomplicated disease with any symptoms they can be prescribed Norvasc as an outpatient. Patients can only get Norvasc through Nice approved centres, which will open in the coming weeks.

Unlike the UK, Germany has no compulsory antiviral medication, nor does it permit users of intravenous anti-virals to be protected against their disease, so all patients receiving Norvasc are particularly vulnerable to the transmission of HIV.

However, there is an anti-retroviral vaccine for herpes simplex in Germany which is recommended by Nice, although it has not been widely used.

This is why people have been glad to see the vaccine just introduced in Germany this year. “We are really glad to hear that the vaccine is now approved,” said Langerach. “It’s a great piece of news in this situation. I feel really happy and relieved knowing that Beatrix is protected from spreading the virus.

“Even though Norvasc is not the first antiviral available to Europeans, we’re pleased to have it as an option and we will try it first and if the vaccine works, we will probably give it to our child.”

The only side effect that there are concerns about with Norvasc, the nasal spray, is being possible to infect the person who gave it to a child. The risk of a child being infected is extremely low, however.

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