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Zovirax: treatment for cold sores
Zovirax is a prescription drug (also known as the generic acyclovir) that is used to treat cold sores, shingles, chickenpox, and sometimes genital herpes. These infections are caused by the herpes simplex and herpes zoster viruses, and while the drug does not cure the infections, acyclovir may reduce the severity and duration of the outbreaks.
Zovirax, Valtrex, and Famvir: Antiviral Drugs on the Market
Zovirax is the oldest of the antiviral drugs as it has been available in topical form as an ointment cream since 1982 and as a pill since 1985. The cream formulation for topical administration should be applied 5 times a day for 4 days. Now, acyclovir is available in a generic form and is the only antiviral available as an intravenous medication.
There are two other FDA-approved drugs that treat the herpes virus: valaciclovir (brand name Valtrex) and famciclovir (brand name Famvir).
Valtrex, manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline, was approved by the FDA in 1995 and was the second antiviral drug to hit the US market. Valtrex comes in pill form and is a prodrug of acyclovir (which means the body converts it to acyclovir after it is absorbed). Valtrex delivers acyclovir more efficiently so that the body can absorb much of the active ingredient.
This has the additional advantage that you need less administration throughout the day.
Famvir is manufactured by Novartis and is also a well-absorbed prodrug. The body converts Famvir into the long-acting antiviral drug penciclovir, which is less common than acyclovir.
How Zovirax (acyclovir) treats cold sores
Cold sores, also known as herpes labialis or cold sores, are highly infectious sores on the lip and outer edge of the mouth.
Cold sore outbreaks heal faster when acyclovir is taken compared to the virus taking its course. New sores are also reduced from forming and the associated pain and itching of the cold sore are also reduced. Acyclovir can also help reduce how long the pain remains after the wounds have healed.
For people with weakened immune systems and more frequent outbreaks, acyclovir can reduce the number of future episodes and reduce the risk of more serious infections from cases where the virus spreads to other parts of the body (such as the eyes).
Why cold sores keep coming
Zovirax is an antiviral drug, but it is not a cure for the herpes virus. The viruses that cause these infections continue to live in the body even when symptoms and outbreaks are not visible.
Antiviral medications work best at the onset of the first signs of an outbreak, as recommended by your doctor. It may not work as well if you delay treatment. Treatment should be started as soon as possible after signs and symptoms (such as tingling or itching, or when lesions first appear) appear.
Keeping the amount of antiviral medication in your body at a constant level is critical to fighting the virus. Because of this, take your medication on a regular basis, at the same time each day.
Keep all of your prescribed amounts of your medication even if your symptoms go away after a few days. Do not change your dose or skip doses, follow your doctor's advice.
Let your doctor know if your condition persists or worsens, even after you have finished the prescribed dose of medication.
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