Dr Clare Morrison

Article by Dr Clare Morrison

Which Genital Herpes Treatment Is Right For You?

Here at MedExpress, we get a lot of patients calling us asking about the difference between genital herpes treatments.

It’s important you work out what’s best for you as treatment with antiviral drugs can help you stay symptom-free for longer and reduce the severity and duration of symptoms when they do flare up. You can read more about genital herpes.

Stages of herpes treatment

⦁ Initial treatment – if you have symptoms such as sores when you are initially diagnosed by a doctor, you will require a brief course of antiviral therapy to prevent them from getting worse.

⦁ Intermittent treatment – if symptoms continue, you could move on to intermittent therapy. This involves taking pills for two to five days when you notice sores or when you feel an outbreak coming on. Taking the drugs can make symptoms less severe.

⦁ Suppressive treatment – if you suffer regularly from outbreaks, you may want to take an antiviral drug everyday. This is called suppressive therapy. For example, if you have six outbreaks per year, suppressive therapy can reduce the number of outbreaks by 70 to 80 percent. In fact, many people who take these drugs daily have no outbreaks at all!

There are three major drugs commonly used to treat genital herpes – and luckily MedExpress stocks all of them! They are:

⦁ Aciclovir

⦁ Valaciclovir

⦁ Famciclovir

What herpes treatment should you take?


Aciclovir is an antiviral medicine and is the generic version of the popular brand Zovirax. It stops the infecting virus from reproducing – so if you want to make the most of this drug, it’s best to take tablets as soon as the first symptoms appear. Aciclovir is used as an episodic treatment and can also be used for suppression therapy. The dosage is more frequent – to treat an outbreak, you need to take one tablet three times a day for five days. For suppression therapy, you need to take one twice a day.

If you’re someone who doesn’t easily remember to take medication, Aciclovir may not be the right herpes treatment for you.


Aciclovir and Valaciclovir are similar. Valaciclovir is a prodrug of Aciclovir, meaning that after it is taken, it is converted in the body to Aciclovir. The branded version of Valaciclovir is Valtrex. However, Valaciclovir doesn’t have to be taken as often as Aciclovir; but Aciclovir is more cost-effective – especially for suppression treatment. Valaciclovir is taken once daily for suppression treatment, and works by preventing viruses from multiplying, and this stops the infection from spreading. It is taken twice daily for outbreak treatment. If you’re not on a tight budget, or if you’re someone who can’t easily commit to taking tablets regularly, then this could be a good option for you.


Famciclovir is prescribed by MedExpress for use at the first sign of a reoccurence, and slows the spread of genital herpes or eliminates it altogether. Famciclovir is the active ingredient in Famvir – but is available at a much lower cost. Similarly to Valaciclovir, if you’re not price conscience and you’re not great at remembering to take tablets, Famiclovir could be the right choice.

Side effects of herpes treatment

When purchasing herpes medication, it’s also important to also consider the side effects.These include:

⦁ Headaches

⦁ Nausea

⦁ Diarrhoea

⦁ Fatigue

⦁ Abdominal pain

If you discover you have herpes, don’t panic. It’s not a life sentence and the stigma is slowly but surely being lifted from this common condition. Seek out the right advice and learn more about what treatment works for you. For more information contact MedExpress – we’ll do all we can to help give you peace of mind.

Dr Clare Morrison
Dr Clare Morrison
Experienced General Practitioner in Hampshire since 1995, with particular interest in Nutrition, Obesity and Smoking Cessation.
Originally published November 06 2017, updated March 10 2020