Valtrex vs Zovirax For Shingles – Differences & Side Effects

Valtrex

It is the brand name of a drug called valacyclovir, that belongs to a group of drugs called antivirals.

This medication is manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline, a British pharmaceutical company with headquarters in London. In the United States, it is available as a generic drug since 2009.

Mechanism of Action

It works by slowing the growth and spread of the virus.

Uses

This prescription medication is used to treat and prevent recurrences of genital herpes as well as to treat cold sores.

In addition, it is used to treat shingles, a viral infection affecting the skin. In children, this medication is used to treat chickenpox.

Note – it will not cure herpes, but, it can lessen the symptoms of the infection and can help heal the rash more quickly. Also, this medication may help reduce how long pain remains after the sores heal.

Dosage

To treat shingles, it is typically taken three times a day (every 8 hours) for a week. It is most useful if it’s used within 48 hours of the onset of rash.

To treat genital herpes, this medicine is commonly taken twice per day for 5 days.

Contraindications

Before taking this antiviral, tell your healthcare provider if you have:

  • a history of the bone marrow transplant;
  • a history of kidney transplant;
  • conditions that can weaken the immune system;
  • kidney disease.

Side Effects And Precautions 

Common side effects may include:

  • nausea;
  • dizziness;
  • vomiting;
  • pain in the stomach area;
  • headaches.

Less common side effects may include:

  • confusion;
  • severe drowsiness;
  • agitation;
  • delirium;
  • shaky movements;
  • urinating less than usual;
  • increased heart rate;
  • depression;
  • hallucinations;
  • swelling of the ankles, legs, or feet;
  • encephalopathy (brain degeneration);
  • aggressive behavior;
  • coma;
  • seizures.

Pregnancy & Breastfeeding

There are no well-done studies to determine whether this antiviral is safe to use during pregnancy. Tell your healthcare provider that you are pregnant or plan to fall pregnant before using this antiviral.

It is not known exactly whether this antiviral passes into human breast milk or it could negatively affect a breastfed infant. Tell your healthcare provider that you are breastfeeding a baby before using this antiviral.

Alcoholalcohol

Avoid drinking alcoholic beverages while taking this antiviral since alcohol use can substantially increase the risk of severe side effects.

Drug Interactionsg

It may negatively interact with other medications, especially:

  • cancer medicines;
  • antiviral medicines;
  • lithium;
  • IV antibiotics;
  • drugs used to prevent organ transplant rejection;
  • methotrexate;
  • medicines used to treat ulcerative colitis;
  • arthritis medicines.

Zovirax

It is the brand name of a drug called acyclovir, that belongs to a class of drugs called nucleoside analogs.

Mechanism of Action

It works by preventing viruses from multiplying and dividing.

Uses

This prescription medication is used to treat and prevent reoccurrence of the herpes simplex virus and to treat shingles and chicken pox.

Note – this medication doesn’t heal herpes zoster, but it can help the rash to heal more quickly.

Other uses of this medicine include prevention of cytomegalovirus infections following severe complications of Epstein-Barr virus infection and transplant.

Side Effects

Common side effects may include:

  • changes in vision;
  • hair loss;
  • diarrhea;
  • upset stomach;
  • tiredness;
  • dizziness;
  • agitation;
  • joint pain;
  • vomiting.

Less common side effects may include:

  • problems swallowing;
  • itching;
  • aggressive behavior;
  • hives;
  • decreased urination;
  • weakness;
  • difficulty speaking;
  • blisters;
  • tingling in the arms or legs;
  • difficulty sleeping;
  • a cough;
  • pale skin;
  • a sore throat;
  • difficulty breathing;
  • unusual bruising;
  • swelling of the feet, eyes, hands, throat, face, tongue, lips, or ankles;
  • confusion;
  • hoarseness;
  • fast heartbeat;
  • bloody diarrhea;
  • chills;
  • blood in the urine;
  • fever;
  • stomach cramps;
  • seizures;
  • hearing voices that do not exist;
  • a shaking of a part of the body;
  • loss of consciousness.

Dosage

The usual recommended dose ranges from 200 to 800 mg, taken either 3, 4, or 5 times a day.

For maximum benefits, the treatment should be started within 48 hours of the onset of rash, but, the use of this medication may be started as late as 72 hours after lesions start to form.

Precautions

This medicines should be used with caution in:

  • individuals with kidney problems;
  • individuals who wear contact lenses;
  • individuals with abnormalities in the nervous system;
  • individuals at risk of dehydration.

Alcohol

Avoid drinking alcoholic beverages while taking this nucleoside analog since alcohol use can substantially increase the risk of severe side effects.

Drug Interactions

It may negatively interact with other medications, especially:

  • Flexeril (cyclobenzaprine);
  • Advil (ibuprofen);
  • gabapentin;
  • amoxicillin;
  • lisinopril;
  • aspirin;
  • Vyvanse;
  • Paracetamol (acetaminophen);
  • Augmentin (amoxicillin/clavulanate);
  • prednisone;
  • Benadryl (diphenhydramine);
  • Synthroid (levothyroxine);
  • Zoloft;
  • Control (phenylpropanolamine);
  • Tylenol (acetaminophen);
  • Singulair (montelukast).

Pregnancy & Breastfeedingg

It is not known exactly whether this nucleoside analog passes into human breast milk or it could negatively affect a breastfed infant. Tell your healthcare provider that you are breastfeeding a baby before using this nucleoside analog.

There are no well-done studies to determine whether this nucleoside analog is safe to use during pregnancy. Tell your healthcare provider that you are pregnant or plan to fall pregnant before using this nucleoside analog.

Bottom Line – Valtrex vs Zovirax

Valtrex (active ingredient – valacyclovir) is an antiviral drug that is used to treat infections caused by herpes viruses, like – cold sores, shingles, genital herpes, and chicken pox. It works by slowing the growth of the herpes virus in the body.

Zovirax (active ingredient – acyclovir) is an antiviral drug that is used to treat infections caused by herpes viruses, like – cold sores, shingles, genital herpes, and chicken pox. It works by slowing the growth of the herpes virus in the body.

In conclusion, both medications target the same viruses, but, Valtrex provides a longer duration of action.

Important note – how long it takes for this medication to work depends on a few factors, such as – how quickly you take it and the severity of the outbreak, therefore, doses can be considerably fewer.

Regarding their price, the average retail price for 30 tablets of Valtrex 1g is $660, while the average retail price for 30 tablets of Zovirax 800mg is $550.

References

http://www.natap.org/2003/may/051503_1.htm
http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJMoa035144
https://academic.oup.com/jid/article/186/Supplement_1/S40/837474

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