Aciclovir (ACV), also known as acyclovir, is an antiviral medication. It is primarily used for the treatment of herpes simplex virus infections, chickenpox, and shingles. Other uses include the prevention of cytomegalovirus infections following transplant and severe complications of Epstein-Barr virus infection. It can be taken by mouth, applied as a cream, or injected.
Common side effects include nausea and diarrhea. Potentially serious side effects include kidney problems and low platelets. Greater care is recommended in those with poor liver or kidney function. It is generally considered safe for use in pregnancy with no harm having been observed. It appears to be safe during breastfeeding. Aciclovir is a nucleoside analog that mimics guanosine. It works by decreasing the production of the virus’s DNA.
Aciclovir was patented in 1974 and approved for medical use in 1981. It is on the World Health Organization’s List of Essential Medicines, the safest and most effective medicines needed in a health system. It is available as a generic medication and is marketed under many brand names worldwide. The wholesale cost as of 2014 to 2016 was between US$0.03 and US$0.12 for a typical dose by mouth. The cost of a typical course of treatment in the United States is less than US$25. In 2016 it was the 195th most prescribed medication in the United States with more than 3 million prescriptions.