Genital Herpes Treatment Oral Medication

Prescription herpes treatment most often takes the form of oral, antiviral pills. Generally such treatment reduces symptoms and shortens outbreak lengths more effectively than topical medications, and can be used for long-term suppression therapy.

Zovirax® and The Acyclovir Family

The drug acyclovir, manufactured under the name Zovirax, has a proven history of effective herpes treatment. It is a well-used drug: over thirty million people worldwide have used acyclovir as a herpes treatment. Zovirax interferes with the virus’s ability to reproduce and spread to new cells, which both reduces the severity of symptoms and shortens outbreak times. In cases where the virus infects the eyes, brain or lungs, Zovirax may be administered intravenously.

Viral Shedding and Herpes Medications

When the virus is in its active state, the point at which it reaches the surface of the skin is known as viral shedding, although its presence is still not visible. The virus can be transmitted during this time.

Acyclovir and related medications reduce the amount of viral shedding during a herpes outbreak: this reduces the chances of transmission to someone else. However, the possibility of transmission still exists, so avoiding sexual contact during an outbreak remains essential.


As effective as acyclovir may be, it does not stay in the bloodstream for long, and requires several doses daily for episodic treatment. Valtrex (valacyclovir) was developed to address this issue. Valtrex, which is converted into acyclovir in the body, is designed to last longer and therefore requires a lower dosage frequency.


Some varieties of herpes have developed a resistance to acyclovir. Famvir, also called famciclovir, treats drug-resistant herpes. Side effects can include headaches, diarrhea and dizziness. When taken intravenously, Famvir may cause toxicity symptoms, including seizures and kidney function difficulties.

Side Effects

Zovirax, Valtrex and Famvir are all members of the same drug family, and generally share the same side effects. Nausea and stomach problems may occur, as may dizziness, diarrhea, vomiting or unusual weakness. More serious side effects can include yellowing of the skin or eyes (jaundice), blood in the urine, fever, confusion and severe rashes or itching. Report any side effects to your health professional immediately.

Talking To Your Doctor

Before starting any new medication, you should inform your doctor of any allergies or existing medical conditions that you have. List any current medications (prescription and non-prescription) that you’re taking, and tell your doctor if you’re pregnant. If you’ve experienced kidney problems or immune system disorders in the past, inform your doctor before starting a herpes treatment.


Isoprinosine is not currently approved by the FDA for herpes treatment, although the drug is available in 56 other countries. Clinical trials investigating its effectiveness are taking place in the United States.

Isoprinosine combines anti-viral abilities with apparent immune system stimulation. The effectiveness of this immune response stimulation has yet to be adequately determined.

Resources (nd). Frequently asked questions about genital herpes. Retrieved August 26, 2002, from