This article is about Famciclovir, a prescription anti-viral medication used to treat genital herpes as well as cold sores. Cold sores and genital herpes are common, and while Famciclovir does not “cure” the virus, it can reduce the duration and severity of symptoms, especially when given as soon as symptoms arise. Doctors at Medzino can issue a prescription for Famciclovir to treat genital herpes.
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Written by Dr Yasmin Aghajan, MD
Information last reviewed 07/15/19
Famciclovir is an antiviral medication that works by inhibiting DNA of viruses from replicating, so that the virus cannot multiply. It is used to treat the virus that causes cold sores, Herpes Simplex 1, or HSV-1, and the virus that usually causes genital herpes, HSV-2. HSV-1/HSV-2 first enters the body via the skin, mouth, or genitals, and migrates to the nerves. There, it can stay quiet, or “dormant” for a period of time before reactivating and causing symptoms. Symptoms of a genital herpes outbreak include pain, burning, tingling and itching between 6 hours to 4 days before the actual sore appears. This period is called the “prodrome” and treatment is most effective when started as soon as possible. The available treatments for genital herpes are Acyclovir, Valacyclovir, and Famciclovir. The benefit of Famciclovir is it has a shorter treatment duration.
Famciclovir works best when taken at the earliest sign of an outbreak. Although the medication will take effect immediately, you may not start to have relief until several hours or days after starting treatment. Treatment shortens the team to healing of the lesions and decreases the duration of viral shedding (contagious period).
The active ingredient in Famciclovir is the antiviral drug famciclovir (500mg)
Famciclovir contains the following inactive ingredients: hydroxypropyl cellulose, hydroxypropyl methylcellulose, lactose, magnesium stearate, polyethylene glycols, sodium starch glycolate and titanium dioxide.
The ingredients may vary by manufacturer; the ingredients listed above are the ingredients in Famvir.
For the first episode of genital herpes, the treatment dosage is:
The dosage of Famciclovir to treat a recurrent episode of genital herpes (ie, you have had genital herpes in the past and this is a recurrence) is:
The treatment works best when started at the first symptom and within 72 hours (ie. tingling, itching, burning, pain or an eruption).
The dosage of Famiciclovir to treat cold sores (herpes labialis) is 1,500mg (3 x 500mg tablets) as a single dose. Treatment works best when started at the first symptom (ie. tingling, itching, burning, pain or an eruption around the lips).
Take the dosage and treatment length prescribed. Famiciclovir does not have to be taken with food.
If taken in excessively high doses in patients with underlying kidney disease, Famciclovir can cause kidney failure.
Famciclovir is not a cure for herpes; you could still pass the virus onto others while being treated.
Let your doctor know if you have kidney disease, as the dose may have to be reduced based on your kidney function.
Let your doctor know if you have HIV or are immunocompromised.
The most common side effects of Famiciclovir are headaches and nausea. A range of other side effects ahve been reported. It is important that you always read the patient information leaflet before taking any medication, including Famiciclovir.
There are very few drug interactions with Famciclovir. Some include: Cladribine, Talimogene Laherparepvec, Varicella virus vaccine, and Zoster vaccine (do not take this medication within 2 weeks of these vaccinations because it may make the vaccines less effective).
Famciclovir is contraindicated if you have an allergy to it or any of its ingredients.
Famvir contains lactose; if you have a rare genetic problem of galactose intolerance or lactase deficiency, discuss this with your doctor.
The dose depends on whether you are taking it to treat a first episode of genital herpes, or a recurrent episode. Always check with your prescribing doctor what dose you should be taking. Symptoms may continue even after you take Famciclovir. It can be taken with or without food. Famciclovir works best when taken at the earliest symptom of a recurrent herpes infection (tingling, burning, itching, pain or a lesion/vesicle).
Famciclovir (Famvir) is made by Novartis. A range of other manufacturers also make generic versions of Famiciclovir.
Famciclovir is used to treat cold sores (herpes labialis) as well as genital herpes infections, and herpes zoster (shingles).
Based on the available data, using Famiciclovir in pregnancy appears to be safe.
It is unknown if Famciclovir is present in breast milk. If herpes lesions are present on the breast, do not breastfeed until they are healed to avoid transmission to the infant.
Disclaimer: This is not medical advice. You and your physician will determine if and how you should take any medication prescribed to you following a medical consultation.
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