October 26, 2006
WellPoint to Cover Varicella Zoster Virus, or Shingles Vaccine
INDIANAPOLIS, Oct. 26 /PRNewswire/ -- WellPoint, Inc. announced today that effective immediately it will cover the vaccine Zostavax(TM), designed to prevent shingles, a painful condition resulting from the reactivation of the chickenpox virus, typically in older individuals.
The vaccine will be covered for individuals 60 years of age and older whose benefit plans provide coverage for vaccines. WellPoint already provides benefits for Zostavax through its Medicare Part D benefit based on the Food and Drug Administration's licensure of Zostavax on May 25, 2006. Specific benefit plans may have variable benefits for immunizations.
The decision to cover Zostavax, manufactured by Merck, was made following formal recommendations provided yesterday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP). ACIP recommended that Zostavax be offered to all individuals 60 years of age and older. The CDC and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will now review ACIP's recommendations and make a formal recommendation on coverage.
"We applaud ACIP's decision to issue a formal recommendation regarding the use of Zostavax," said Sam Nussbaum, M.D., executive vice president and chief medical officer for WellPoint, Inc.
Zostavax is currently the only licensed vaccine in the United States that reduces the risk of reactivation of the chickenpox, or varicella virus, which remains dormant in the body after recovery from chickenpox earlier in life. Shingles, also known as herpes zoster, strikes about 1 million Americans a year, mostly those aged 60 and older. Up to 200,000 people who develop shingles have a particularly bad type of nerve pain called post-herpetic neuralgia that can persist for months or years.
"We believe this vaccine is a medical breakthrough that will benefit seniors throughout the country," said Nussbaum. "Helping to improve the lives of our members and the health of our communities is our mission at WellPoint, and we continuously look to support new, proven treatments that will help our members prevent significant illness."
According to WellPoint policy, immunization coverage decisions are based on recommendations issued by ACIP and other nationally recognized organizations. ACIP is comprised of 15 experts in fields associated with immunization who provide advice and guidance to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and CDC on the most effective means to prevent vaccine- preventable diseases.
About WellPoint, Inc.
WellPoint's mission is to improve the lives of the people it serves and the health of its communities. WellPoint, Inc. is the largest health benefits company in terms of commercial membership in the United States. Through its nationwide networks, the company delivers a number of leading health benefit solutions through a broad portfolio of integrated health care plans and related services, along with a wide range of specialty products such as life and disability insurance benefits, pharmacy benefit management, dental, vision, behavioral health benefit services, as well as long term care insurance and flexible spending accounts. Headquartered in Indianapolis, Indiana, WellPoint is an independent licensee of the Blue Cross and Blue Shield Association and serves its members as the Blue Cross licensee for California; the Blue Cross and Blue Shield licensee for Colorado, Connecticut, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Maine, Missouri (excluding 30 counties in the Kansas City area), Nevada, New Hampshire, New York (as Blue Cross Blue Shield in 10 New York City metropolitan and surrounding counties and as Blue Cross or Blue Cross Blue Shield in selected upstate counties only), Ohio, Virginia (excluding the Northern Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C.), Wisconsin; and through UniCare. Additional information about WellPoint is available at http://www.wellpoint.com/.
CONTACT: Media Contact: Tania Graves, +1-317-488-6543, or +1-402-218-6198(cell); or Investor Relations: Wayne S. DeVeydt, +1-317-488-6390, both ofWellPoint, Inc.
Web site: http://www.wellpoint.com/