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Drugs

Side Effects
Serious

No known serious side effects are associated with the use of acyclovir.
Common

Rash, nausea and vomiting. Ointment can cause pain, burning, or itching at the site where it is applied. Should such adverse symptoms persist, notify your doctor. Injection can cause inflammation of the vein (phlebitis); call your doctor if this occurs.
Less Common

Diarrhea, stomach pain, lightheadedness, dizziness, confusion, tremor. In rare cases kidney function may be altered when the drug is given by injection, causing such symptoms as decreased urine output.
Acyclovir


Drug Class:
Antiviral

Available OTC?: No

Available Generic?: Yes

Zovirax 200 mg
(Glaxo Wellcome)
Available In
Why Prescribed
How It Works
Range and Frequency
Onset of Effect
Duration of Action
Dietary Advice
Storage
Missed Dose
Stopping the Drug
Prolonged Use
Over 60
Driving and Hazardous Work
Alcohol
Pregnancy
Breast Feeding
Infants and Children
Special Concerns
Overdose Symptoms
What to Do
Drug Interactions
Food Interactions
Disease Interactions



Available In
Capsules, tablets, liquid, ointment, injection

Why Prescribed
To treat herpes virus infections such as genital herpes, shingles, herpes simplex, and chicken pox.

How It Works
Acyclovir interferes with the activity of enzymes needed for the replication of viral DNA in cells. This prevents the virus from multiplying.

Range and Frequency
Oral forms-- For genital herpes: Up to 1,200 mg a day in evenly distributed doses, every four or eight hours. For shingles: Up to 4,000 mg a day in evenly distributed doses every four hours. For chicken pox: Up to 800 mg, four times a day, not to exceed 3,200 mg a day. Topical form-- To relieve herpes symptoms: Apply a small amount to lesions every three hours (six times a day) for seven days. Use a glove when applying medication.

Onset of Effect
2 hours or more.

Duration of Action
Up to five hours following the final dose.

Dietary Advice
Capsule, tablet, and liquid forms should all be taken with food and with a full (8 oz) glass of water.

Storage
Store in a dry place at room temperature, away from direct sunlight. Refrigerate any liquid form of acyclovir, but do not allow it to freeze.

Missed Dose
If you miss a tablet, capsule, or liquid dose, take it as soon as you remember, up to two hours late. If more than two hours, wait for the next scheduled dose. Do not double the next dose. For ointment, apply dose as soon as you remember, then return to your regular dosing schedule.

Stopping the Drug
Take the drug as prescribed for the full treatment period, even if you begin to feel better before the scheduled end of therapy, but do not take it for longer than the recommended period.

Prolonged Use
Women with genital herpes are at increased risk of developing cervical cancer; annual Pap smears are recommended for these patients.

Over 60
Adverse reactions and side effects may be more common in older persons. Such effects can be minimized by drinking at least two to three quarts of liquid per day.

Driving and Hazardous Work
The use of acyclovir should not impair your ability to perform such tasks safely.

Alcohol
Alcohol may accentuate the side effects of lightheadedness and dizziness.

Pregnancy
Acyclovir has been used by pregnant women and no birth defects or other related problems have been reported; however, studies in humans have been limited and inconclusive. Consult your doctor about using acyclovir if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant.

Breast Feeding
Acyclovir may pass into breast milk. Breast feeding should be avoided while taking any oral form of the drug. No problems are expected with the topical form.

Infants and Children
Acyclovir should not be used for children under two years of age. Its use for children under 12 should be carefully supervised by a physician.

Special Concerns
Be sure to tell your doctor if you have ever had any unusual or allergic reaction to acyclovir. It is important to remember that the use of acyclovir is not a cure and will not help prevent you from spreading herpes infections to others.

Overdose Symptoms
No specific ones have been reported.

What to Do
An overdose of acyclovir is unlikely to be life-threatening. However, if someone takes a much larger dose than prescribed, call your doctor, emergency medical services (EMS), or the nearest poison control center right away for advice. Prolonged overdose may lead to kidney damage.

Drug Interactions
Consult your doctor for specific advice if you are taking cyclosporine, probenecid, meperidine, or zidovudine.

Food Interactions
No significant food interactions have been reported.

Disease Interactions
Use of acyclovir may cause complications in patients with liver or kidney disease, since these organs work together to remove the medication from the body.

Date Published: 04/13/2005
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