Cincinnati HELP

Ask us: Treatments for herpes?


What are the proven treatments for herpes simplex?

No cure for herpes simplex has yet been discovered, although medical science is working on it, and some research seems promising. There are treatments, of course. Acyclovir, valacyclovir, and famciclovir have all been available by prescription for a number of years. For most people, all are quite effective in controlling both recurrent outbreaks and viral shedding. But they are not cures. They do not rid the body of the virus.

These are the only three treatments for genital herpes which have been proven effective in clinical trials and approved by the FDA. These antivirals are closely related. The active ingredient in acyclovir (Zovirax) and valacyclovir (Valtrex) is the same. That in famciclovir (Famvir) is quite similar. While other options, including vaccines, are currently in various stages of development and trials, no other scientifically proven treatments exist.

All three are now available as generics. Zovirax, Valtrex, and Famvir are the brand names. Look for the generics under the names acyclovir, valacyclovir, and famciclovir. The generics are just as effective as the brands, and considerably cheaper.

Are there other options?

There are also a variety of alternative therapies. Some, like L-Lysine, have been known as herpes treatments for many years. They have either never been subjected to double-blind, placebo-controlled trials, or the trials have been inconclusive. Yet Lysine and some other alternative therapies do seem to help some people. And we have been told by physicians who have spoken to our group that Lysine is not harmful.

For years, ASHA has periodically reported on alternative therapies (see the helper, Summer 1998 issue for example). Like Lysine, many of these therapies, though unproven, may be of benefit to at least some people.

   But beware!

Unfortunately, as anyone who has ever searched online for herpes knows, "therapies" and "cures" abound. Some of these are outright scams, touted with outrageous and false claims. They especially harm people who are newly diagnosed and others who are vulnerable and not well informed. People desperate for a cure are not always well equipped to tell the difference between a legitimate alternative therapy and a fake. But those which make extravagant claims or promise that they will cure herpes are inevitably false. When a real cure is discovered and becomes available, we'll all hear about it.