What is Valtrex?
Valtrex is the brand name for the generic drug valcyclovir and is a prescription medication which helps control infections related to the herpes virus. Valtrex is not a cure for these diseases. Rather, it helps to contain the virus and stop it from spreading. If you have a healthy immune system, taking Valtrex may provide suppressive therapy, reduce the risk of spreading the herpes virus and help treat existing outbreaks.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved valacyclovir in 1995. Currently, GlaxoSmithKline manufactures and markets this medication under the brand names Valtrex and Zelitrex, although it is also available as a generic drug. Valtrex is available only with your healthcare provider’s prescription. It is dispensed as caplets, containing either 500 mg or 1 g (1000 mg) of valacyclovir. Valacyclovir may also be prepared in an oral suspension of 25 mg/mL and 50 mg/mL. It is important to follow your doctor’s dosing instructions exactly with this medication.
Valtrex are used to treat a variety of conditions associated with the herpes virus, including cold sores (herpes labialis), shingles (herpes zoster), and genital herpes (herpes simplex) in adults. It may also be used for children with cold sores and chickenpox.
Valtrex will help to speed healing of the outbreak associated with these diseases and can provide relief for the discomfort and pain due to these infections. Valtrex can also reduce the chance of an outbreak occurring. This medication will not cure you of any of these diseases, as the herpes virus will always remain in your system.
Valtrex should always be taken at the very first sign of infection or outbreak. Delaying use of the medication could decrease its effectiveness significantly. If your outbreak continues to worsen, consult your doctor.
It may also be prescribed for other medical purposes not discussed in this medication guide.
How Valtrex Works
Valtrex works by interfering with the replication of viral DNA which viruses require to grow and reproduce. Basically, valacyclovir is not active itself and only serves as a “prodrug”. Once ingested, it is converted into its active form acyclovir which helps the body fight against the virus. Acyclovir drug preparations (oral, topical, and intravenous) are also available, usually under the trade name Zovirax. Compared with acyclovir, valacyclovir is thought to have a longer duration of action, as such can be taken fewer times each day.
Valtrex is effective only in viral infections due to herpes virus. It does not treat other viral infections such as common cold or flu.
How to Take Valtrex
- It is recommended that Valtrex be started at appearance of initial symptoms (such as burning, tingling, blisters). Valtrex may not be as effective if started 1 or 2 days after the first symptoms appear.
- Read your prescription label carefully and take this medication exactly as prescribed. Do not take more than the recommended dose or for longer than recommended.
- Do not discontinue taking the medication even if you feel better, unless specifically instructed by your healthcare provider. Make sure to complete the recommended treatment duration. Avoid missing doses.
- Valtrex can be taken without regard to meals. Take each caplet with full glass of water. Increase your fluid intake while being treated with Valtrex to keep your kidneys working properly.
- If using the oral suspension (liquid drug formulations), shake it well before taking each dose. Be sure to use the specific measuring device (spoon or medicine cup) that comes with the product package. Do not use regular table spoon. If the product does not include one, request from your pharmacist.
- Lesions due to herpes virus should be kept dry and clean. Avoid wearing loose clothing to prevent irritating herpes lesions.
Important Things To Remember When Using Valtrex
- Inform your healthcare provider if you have been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, kidney disease, weak immune system, or if you have undergone medical procedures such as kidney/bone marrow transplant or dialysis.
- Discuss with your healthcare provider all drugs that you currently take. Combining Valtrex with other medications increases the risk of kidney problems. You may require dose adjustments if taking certain medications together with Valtrex.
- Valtrex cannot help prevent the spread of genital herpes. Viral infections due to herpes are contagious and it is possible to infect others even if you are already taking this medication.
- Stop taking Valtrex and consult your healthcare provider immediately if you develop any serious side effect causing harm to your red blood cells, including: easy bruising or bleeding, fever, red spots on the skin (unrelated to chickenpox or herpes), vomiting, bloody diarrhea, weakness, pale or yellow discoloration of the skin, decreased urine output, or fainting.
- Valtrex is not recommended for children.