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Famvir is a popular prescription medication for herpes. It is an antiviral medication that may reduce the severity of your herpes outbreaks.

Famvir, which also goes by its official drug name of Famciclovir, is a medication designed to treat herpes outbreaks.

It is an antiviral drug that helps to prevent the replication of a virus's DNA that viruses use to multiply (like the herpes virus).

Famciclovir is one of many different types of drugs used to treat herpes outbreaks. Other common pharmaceutical drugs include Valtrex and Zovirax.

How Does Famvir Work?

Because nearly all forms of herpes can occur at any time, Famvir is taken daily to prevent outbreaks – especially for HSV-1 and HSV-2.

However, Famvir may also be taken as a herpes treatment for any disease in the herpes family.

What is Famvir Most Commonly Used For?

In recent years, Famvir has become one of the most common treatment options for genital herpes.

Yet Famvir is effective for most infections in the herpes virus family. Famciclovir is commonly used to treat herpes zoster, more commonly known as shingles. Famvir is used to stop the severity and duration of the shingles rash after an outbreak. It may also prevent postherpetic neuralgia, which is a type of intense pain that may last after shingles have left the body.

Still, Famvir has been shown to work effectively as a treatment for both HSV-1 and HSV-2 (traditionally oral and genital herpes).

Famvir is effective at shortening the duration of cold sores (HSV-1). However, because most people find HSV-1 to be overwhelming, most do not seek treatment of cold sores and Famvir is less likely to be used.

Famvir is more commonly used for HSV-2 (genital herpes), or HSV-1 of the genitals. It is not known to prevent transmission of herpes, but it is one of the preferred drugs for shortening the duration of a herpes outbreak and decreasing herpes symptoms, particularly the pain, itching, burning, and tingling. It may also improve the healing time of sores during an outbreak and make it less likely for new sores to form.

Research has also found that those that take Famvir before viral shedding occurs are both less likely to shed the virus and more likely to stop shedding sooner than with a placebo. In theory, this reduces transmission, however, it is not necessarily meant to be a preventative medication.

Some researchers are looking into using Famvir as a method of relieving chickenpox symptoms. Chickenpox is also in the herpes family of viruses, which indicates to researchers that there is potential for a cure. However, it has not yet been approved as a chickenpox treatment.

Can Famvir Cure Herpes?

There is no known cure for herpes, and Famvir cannot prevent all future outbreaks.

However, research has discovered that taking Famvir during the primary infection may reduce the risk of subsequent infections.

While not considered an approved use of Famvir yet, many studies have shown that taking Famvir during the first episode of a herpes outbreak may cause fewer viruses to become latent in the neural ganglia. This should, in theory, reduce the likelihood and severity of future outbreaks, as less of the virus will remain in the body after the initial infection.

More research is needed to verify that Famvir can and should be used in this manner.

What is the Difference Between Famvir and Valtrex for Herpes?

Very little research has been completed on the differences between Valtrex and Famvir. However, doctors generally recommend Valtrex for the initial infection, since few studies have been completed on the effectiveness of Famvir on primary infections.

Two primary differences between the medications appear to be cost and dosing. Valtrex is less expensive than Famvir, but Famvir is generally prescribed twice daily and often for only one day, while Valtrex may be taken more often for a period of 3 days or more.

After the primary infection, Famvir and Valtrex both appear to have the same effectiveness overall at preventing the frequency and severity of recurrent infections. The choice between them depends on dosing preferences and doctor recommendations.

Famvir may also be more common for those with HIV infections. Valtrex may be more valuable for preventing herpes transmission. Few (if any) studies have been completed on Famvir's ability to prevent virus transmission, so Famvir should not be used to prevent transmission until this has been established or approved.

Does Famvir Have Any Side Effects?

All medications have potential side effects. Compared to other medications, Famvir's side effects are fairly mild, with very rare severe side effects.

The most common side effects include:

  • A headache
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea

There are very few rare side effects associated with Famvir. The most common severe side effect is an allergic reaction. That's why it's important to call a doctor immediately if you experience severe fatigue, confusion, large hives, or other signs of an allergic reaction.

Famvir also has no known severe drug interactions, although may still moderately interact with some other medications. Always talk to your doctor about any drugs or herbal supplements you use before taking any medications, including Famvir.

Use of Famvir for Herpes and Herpes Family Viruses

Based on available research, Famvir is an effective treatment option for shingles, herpes simplex type 1, and herpes simplex type 2.

Famvir successfully stops the replication of the herpes virus in the body. It is not yet used for prevention and is more expensive than other herpes medications. It also does not cure herpes. But side effects are rare and the success rate for Famvir is significant.

Overall, using Famvir as a herpes treatment may be beneficial for reducing the duration of herpes and improving herpes symptoms. 


Tyring SK, Barbarash RA (1995). "Famciclovir for the Treatment of Acute Herpes Zoster: Effects on Acute Disease and Postherpetic Neuralgia". Ann. Intern. Med. 123 (2): 89–96.



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