The standard, effective and specific treatment for herpes is antiviral therapy, which is usually in a tablet form.
These medications are normally only prescribed for cold sores if the case is particularly severe or frequent, otherwise Zovirax cream is prescribed. Herpes medications in a tablet or capsule form are more commonly prescribed for genital herpes.
These medications include Valtrex, Famvir and Acyclovir [Aciclovir]. All of these drugs have a similar mode of action and help to stop HSV from replicating inside the body.
All of these treatments are manufactured by the pharmaceutical company GlaxoSmithKline except for Famvir which is produced by Novartis (also a leading pharmaceutical company).
The difference between all of these drugs often relates to the concentration of the active ingredient and the frequency in which they need to be taken. For example, many people prefer Valtrex over Acyclovir [Aciclovir] because you need to take it less often to get the same result. However, it is usually much more expensive and is not always covered by insurance.
Although not everyone experiences side-effects, possible reactions include nausea, diarrhea, stomach pain, hair loss, and depression. These drugs are to be used with caution if you have kidney problems, poor kidney function or a weakened immune system.
Advantages of Prescription Herpes Drugs
When these drugs work they can be very effective
Acyclovir / Aciclovir (Zovirax), Valacyclovir (Valtrex) and famcyclovir (Famvir) are normally effective both in treating the active outbreak and in helping to prevent recurrences if taken everyday.
Valacyclovir can help to reduce viral shedding
Viral shedding is a concern because it means that the herpes virus can be spread at times when there are no signs or symptoms. Valacyclovir (Valtrex) is the only drug proven to reduce, but not eliminate, this risk when taken on a daily basis. It maybe worth noting that some supplements have also been shown to reduce the activity of viral shedding in clinical studies.
Acyclovir [Aciclovir] is covered by medical insurance in many parts of the world
This reduces the cost and can make the treatment much more economical. It is a much needed reduction – the market prices for these three drugs are astronomical, particularly if you need to take them daily or on a regular basis.
These are the only FDA approved medications for Genital Herpes (HSV-2)
Comprehensive and large scale clinical studies must be established before a treatment can be approved by the FDA for use on Genital Herpes. Trials have been conducted for these treatments, proving their safety, tolerability and efficacy.
Disadvantages of Prescription Herpes Drugs
There is a long list of possible side-effects
Including mild adverse reactions such as diarrhea, nausea and headaches but also much more serious possible side-effects such as kidney damage, hair loss and depression. Not everyone is affected in the same way. The milder side-effects are quite common, but generally most people experience very little to no side-effect.
These drugs can be very expensive, anywhere from $30 to $350 a course
The typical cost is US$130.00 for 1 x ten day course which is enough for approximately one outbreak. If you require Valacyclovir (Valtrex) for a year of suppressive therapy this will cost close to US$1100 per year. There are however different strengths and doses (such as the generic Acyclovir / Aciclovir) and the cost is less when covered by Medical Insurance.
These drugs only work while you are taking them
These medications need to be taken on an ongoing basis and regularly refilled by your pharmacy. You can take them either as a suppressive therapy (every day) or episodic (only when you actually have symptoms), depending on how your Doctor prescribes them for you.
These drugs are NOT effective when taken 72 hours after symptoms begin
You need to begin these drugs as soon as you feel any signs or symptoms and no later than 72 hours after in order for the medication to work as directed.
A prescription is required
Although this is a pro for safety, it can be embarrassing and inconvenient when you have to obtain a prescription from your Doctor and then have it filled by your pharmacy each time you need a refill. This process adds to the cost and is not ideal for discretion.
They do not work for everyone
This is of course the case with all treatments. Although these drugs work very well for a lot of people there are many people who they simply do not work for.
Prescription Herpes Tablets can be prescribed in 2 ways:
1) Episodic – you take them only when you get an outbreak
Known as “episodic” treatment, the aim is to shorten the time each outbreak lasts for and to relieve the active symptoms. If you are coping well and your outbreaks are not too frequent, you and your doctor may agree that episodic treatment is the most appropriate option
2) Suppressive – you take them everyday to help prevent or delay future symptoms
If your recurrent outbreaks are frequent or severe your doctor may recommend that you take oral antiviral medication every day to help prevent outbreaks happening. “Suppressive” therapy is taken continuously, e.g. daily, for months or even years, but is normally very effective in helping to prevent recurrences.
These treatments only work while you are taking them and cannot prevent future outbreaks once you stop taking the drug.
These medical drugs are synthetically made and their usage should be very strictly monitored. It is important to contact you health care provider for professional guidance.
It is extremely important that herpes be diagnosed professionally. There’s lots of reasons for this, including so that you get the correct treatment and helpful guidance in how to deal with your condition AND to determine if the symptoms are actually herpes to begin with.
With that said, once you have visited a Doctor and have a prescription for a herpes medication you can fill the prescription in these ways:
1) Your local drugstore
Most drugstore attendants will be respectful and considerate, and are trained in matters of confidentiality. However if getting your medication in person is a little nerve-wracking, at least at first, the pharmacies below offer online ordering.
2) A certified online pharmacy
There are lots of different online pharmacy websites where you can fill your prescription if you want to. If you are in Northern America look for a certified US based Pharmacy that has prices consistently lower than the retail average.
Generic medications are not everyone’s cup of tea, but if you don’t mind the generic version of these drugs you can save money.