Valaciclovir

Sounds like 'val-uh-SYE-klo-veer'

Easy-to-read medicine information about valaciclovir – what is it, how to take valaciclovir safely and possible side effects.

Type of medicineAlso called
  • Antiviral (to treat infections caused by viruses)


  • Valtrex®
  • Vaclovir®

What is valaciclovir?

  • Valaciclovir is used to treat viral infections caused by herpes simplex virus, and viral infections caused by herpes zoster (such as shingles).
  • It works by stopping the growth of the viruses that cause the infection. In this way valaciclovir reduces the severity of the infection, and stops it from spreading. It helps the infection heal faster, and lessens pain and itching. Valaciclovir does not kill the virus. The viruses that cause these infections continue to live in the body.
  • Valaciclovir is also used to prevent viral infections in people with a reduced immune system such as if you are receiving chemotherapy or after organ transplant.  
  • Valaciclovir is available as tablets in different strengths (250 milligrams, 500 milligrams and 1 gram).

Dose

  • The dose of valaciclovir will be different for different people, depending on the type of infection and whether it is used to treat an infection or prevent an infection.  
  • Your doctor will calculate the dose suitable for you.
  • Usually the dose ranges from 500 milligrams to 2 grams taken 1 to 4 times a day.
  • Always take your valaciclovir exactly as your doctor has told you. The pharmacy label on your medicine will tell you how much valaciclovir to take, how often to take it, and any special instructions.

How to take valaciclovir

  • Swallow your valaciclovir tablets with a glass of water.
  • You can take valaciclovir with or without food.
  • Separate your doses out evenly during the day. For example, if your dose is to be taken 4 times a day, take a dose about every 5 hours such as 8am, 1pm, 6pm, and 11pm. Valaciclovir works best when the amount of drug in your body is kept at a constant level.    
  • Drink plenty of water while taking valaciclovir, to keep your kidneys working well (unless your doctor advises you otherwise).
  • Your doctor will advise you on how long to take valaciclovir for (usually 5 to 10 days).
  • If you forget to take your dose, take it as soon as you remember that day.
  • But, if it is nearly time for your next dose, just take the next dose at the right time. Do not take double the dose.
  • Keep taking valaciclovir until you finish all the tablets. Do not stop taking it, even if you feel better after a few days. This will prevent the infection from returning.

Possible side effects

Like all medicines, valaciclovir can cause unwanted side effects, although not everyone gets them. Often unwanted side effects improve as your body gets used to the new medicine.

Side effectsWhat should I do?
  • Nausea (feeling sick) or vomiting
  • Try taking valaciclovir after a meal
  • Tell your doctor if troublesome
  • Headache
  • Stomach pain
  • Diarrhoea (loose, watery stools)    
  • This may settle after a few days
  • Tell your doctor if troublesome
  • Feeling sleepy, dizzy, tried, drowsy
  • Be careful when driving or using tools until you know how this medicine affects you
  • Signs of an allergic reaction such as skin rash, itching, swelling of the lips, face, and mouth or difficulty breathing
  • Tell your doctor immediately or ring HealthLine 0800 611 116

Interactions

Valaciclovir may interact with a few medications and herbal supplements, so check with your doctor or pharmacist.

Learn more

The following links provide further information on valaciclovir. Be aware that websites from other countries may contain information that differs from New Zealand recommendations.

Vaclovir Medsafe NZ Consumer Medicine Information

Valaciclovir for viral infections Patient Info, UK

Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist. Reviewed By: Dr J Bycroft