What Is Valtrex (Valacyclovir)?
Valtrex is the brand name for valacyclovir, an antiviral drug used to treat infections caused by certain types of viruses.
In adults, it’s prescribed for shingles (herpes zoster), cold sores around the mouth, and to help lessen the effects of genital herpes.
In children, it’s used to treat cold sores (in kids over 12) and chicken pox (in children over age 2).
Valtrex is not a cure for herpes, but it can help reduce your symptoms by slowing the growth and spread of the virus.
This gives the body’s immune system a better chance to fight off the infection and reduce the number of outbreaks.
The drug can decrease herpes pain and itching, help sores heal, and prevent new sores from forming.
This medication is also prescribed off-label to treat cytomegalovirus, another type of viral infection that’s a concern for pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems, especially after an organ transplant.
The Food and Drug Administration approved Valtrex in 1995.
In 2012, the maker of Valtrex, Glaxo Smith Kline, agreed to pay $3 billion dollars to settle federal charges of fraud that included allegations that the company paid healthcare professionals kickbacks to prescribe some drugs including Valtrex.
At the time, this was the largest healthcare fraud settlement in U.S. history.
The side effects of Valtrex may be more severe in older adults, especially kidney problems and mental/mood changes (such as confusion and agitation).
Valtrex does not prevent the spread of herpes, so take precautions to protect a sex partner. Don’t have sexual contact during an outbreak or if you have symptoms.
Be aware herpes can be passed on even when you are symptom-free, so always use effective barrier methods like condoms and dental dams.
Cold sores are also spread easily, so avoid kissing or other close contact with people until your sores have completely healed.
Even touching a cold sore with your finger, then touching someone else, can pass the virus, so wash hands frequently when you have an outbreak.
Tell your doctor if you’ve been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, or if you have a weak immune system.
Valtrex can be harmful to the kidneys. The risk increases when you take it with other medications that can harm the kidneys.
Make sure to let your physician know about any drugs you’re already taking, any history of kidney disease, dialysis treatment, or if you’ve had a kidney or bone marrow transplant.
Talk to your doctor before having certain immunizations like vaccinations against the varicella virus.
Pregnancy and Valtrex
Valtrex is not expected to harm an unborn child but discuss a pregnancy with your doctor.
Herpes can be passed from an infected mother to a baby if the mother has a genital lesion during childbirth.
Valtrex will pass into breast milk and could harm a nursing infant.
Do not take this drug without talking to your doctor if you plan to breastfeed.