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Valtrex Review: How effective and safe is this herpes treatment?

We may not have a cure for herpes, but we have effective drugs like Valtrex that can control it. Our research team tries it out to see if it’s right for you.

Last Updated: May 12, 2022
altrex Review

Over 10% of Americans are affected by herpes every year. And without any cure in sight, hearing you’ve contracted herpes may seem like a scary diagnosis. You might envision persistent cold sores and genital flare-ups serving as uncomfortable and painful reminders of a past mistake. Fortunately, this condition is manageable thanks to the research and development of modern medicines. A prescription antiviral drug named Valtrex is one such option.

Thanks to Valtrex’s availability through telemedicine services and its affordability as a generic drug called valacyclovir, more and more people are turning to this remedy for help. In this review, you’ll learn all about Valtrex, how it helps sufferers of herpes, chickenpox, and shingles, and whether or not it’s the right choice for you.

Review Summary

Pros

  • Clinically proven effectiveness
  • Far fewer herpes flare-ups
  • Decreased risk of transmission
  • Sped up recovery time
  • Reduced pain
  • Formation of fewer sores or lesions
  • General safety
  • Affordability

Cons

  • Unsafe for the immunocompromised
  • May be harmful to the kidneys
  • Time-sensitive effectiveness in some cases

Bottom line

Valtrex is a safe, highly effective way to manage symptoms of herpes and can also help speed up your recovery from chickenpox or shingles. It’s worth a look as long as you’re not immunocompromised or suffering from kidney problems.

Our Top Picks

Valtrex

Valtrex is an effective way to mitigate and manage Herpes symptoms.

This antiviral medication safety treats herpes symptoms such as cold sores, genital sores, shingles, and chickenpox. Get a prescription easily online from a telemedicine provider.

Valtrex for Him
Reviewed by Innerbody Research
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Over the past two decades, Innerbody Research has helped tens of millions of readers make more informed decisions involving staying healthy and living healthier lifestyles.

We extensively test each health service or product we review. We try our best to give you, our readers, an unbiased exploration of at-home health options, free of marketing jargon or gimmicks. We evaluate products and services based on their adherence to quality, the latest medical evidence and health standards, and a simple question: would we buy the product or service ourselves if it weren’t part of our job, and would we recommend it to family and friends?

Additionally, like all health-related content on this website, this review was thoroughly vetted by one or more members of our Medical Review Board for accuracy.

What is Valtrex?

Valtrex is an antiviral medication designed to treat symptoms of herpes (including cold sores and genital sores), chickenpox, and shingles. It’s a prescription medication available at pharmacies everywhere or from telemedicine services like Hims, Hers, and wisp under its generic name (valacyclovir).

When you take Valtrex, nearly all of the medicine converts into a metabolite called acyclovir, which works by inhibiting viral DNA polymerase. A polymerase is essential in DNA and RNA construction. So while acyclovir is active in your body, it deactivates viral replication, effectively reducing the severity of your symptoms.

Who should consider Valtrex?

Just about anyone over 12 years old with cold sores, chickenpox, or shingles would benefit from this safe and effective treatment. It’s generally well-tolerated and can significantly help reduce the severity of your symptoms while shortening healing time.

Who won't find Valtrex useful?

There are no studies on Valtrex’s effects in immunocompromised people over the long term. Valtrex may also be unsafe for people with kidney problems. And since older adults are more likely to have complications with their kidneys, we strongly recommend speaking to your doctor about any potential risks.

How does Valtrex work?

Unfortunately, herpes is an incurable condition. But, you can manage it with modern treatments like Valtrex. There are two types of herpes: HSV-1 and HSV-2. People with either type typically have the most recurrences (also called flare-ups) in the first year. According to one clinical study, you can expect 1-5 flare-ups in the first year and 1-2 fewer during the second. To learn about your most convenient herpes testing options, visit our guide to the best at home tests.

Valtrex suppresses herpes symptoms by slowing the growth of viruses. This reduces the number of flare-ups and decreases their active time and severity when they do occur. According to this clinical study, you’ll also experience less pain, faster healing of sores, and fewer new sores forming.

HSV-1 and HSV-2

There are two forms of herpes that Valtrex treats: herpes simplex virus 1 (HSV-1) and herpes simplex virus 2 (HSV-2).

HSV-1 is much more common and less severe than HSV-2. An estimated 66% of the population globally will contract HSV-1 in their lifetime. Most are infected during their childhood. But you can spread HSV-1 through oral sex, as well. The majority of HSV-1 cases will be asymptomatic. Symptoms usually present as cold sores around the lips and mouth. But, it’s possible to see sores from this virus on the genitals and around the anal region.

HSV-2 is the more serious form of herpes. It’s usually spread through sexual contact or from a mother to her child during birth. Symptoms typically present as sores on the genitals but may surface around the groin, anal region, or upper thighs. It’s rare to see HSV-2 spread to the lips and mouth.

Flare-ups may be frequent during the first year after contracting HSV-2 and may recur over a lifetime. Over the course of a 391-day clinical study, researchers discovered that 38% of people with HSV-2 have six or more flare-ups per year. And 20% have over 10 per year.

Taking Valtrex

If you’re prescribed (or choose) a suppressive treatment, you’ll take a lower dose of Valtrex daily to mitigate your symptoms. The length of time will vary depending on your condition, but you can safely take Valtrex for up to 10 years without worry.

Episodic treatment with Valtrex typically means a slightly higher dose over a 3-5 day course. This high dose, short-term study proved the drug’s effectiveness by reducing the severity of symptoms and the time until healing by about one day.

A few factors a doctor will consider are your weight, the type of infection, and how you respond to treatment.

Which way you decide to go is ultimately up to you. But one clinical study found Valtrex works best as a suppressive treatment, kept at a consistent level in your body. Either way, follow your plan carefully and don’t skip any doses.

Does Valtrex work?

With plenty of research behind it, Valtrex seems to be a safe and effective treatment for managing herpes, cold sores, and shingles.

This clinical study provides convincing data showing Valtrex’s effectiveness in treating herpes across several metrics. There’s less time until pain subsides, fewer sores formed, and reduced healing time.

The biggest benefits of taking Valtrex are its ability to prevent transmission to partners and significantly reduce flare-ups. A clinical study measuring transmission rates gave half of 1,484 couples 500 mg of Valtrex once per day (and a placebo to the other half). At the end of the study, 4 of 743 partners contracted herpes in the trial group. And 16 of 741 partners did in the control group. This next clinical study tested a 500 mg dose of Valtrex over 24 months. The researchers recorded a 9% recurrence rate of genital herpes in the trial group and an 86% rate in the control group.

These results suggest that Valtrex is an effective way to mitigate the worst symptoms of herpes while keeping your partner safer.

What about shingles and chickenpox?

Valtrex also helps with shingles and chickenpox, but you’ll have to take it within a certain timeframe for it to be effective.

One clinical study on shingles found that a dose of 1,000 mg taken three times daily sped up healing time and caused a quicker end to all symptoms. You’ll need to take Valtrex within 72 hours to see the full benefits.

Research about using Valtrex to treat chickenpox in children is limited. One clinical study reported treatment to be safe, with reduced fever, fewer lesions, and accelerated healing times. A second clinical trial treating chickenpox in adults reported similar results, with a nearly 2-day reduction in healing time. Both articles say you’ll need to take Valtrex within 24 hours of symptoms appearing for the best results.

Is Valtrex safe?

Valtrex is a safe treatment for most potential users, with very few people experiencing severe side effects. According to this two-year-long clinical study, patients given 500 mg of Valtrex once per day showed the same adverse effects as a placebo group. Of the trial group, only 0.2% of patients experienced severe effects like hepatitis B infections or strong headaches.

Some common side effects of Valtrex to be aware of are:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue

If you experience any of the following more severe side effects, call a doctor immediately:

  • Abnormally easy to bruise or bleed
  • Shortness of breath
  • Little to no urination or pain urinating
  • Persistent fatigue
  • Swelling in feet or ankles

Keep in mind that Valtrex’s safety has not been studied in immunocompromised people and may dampen your immune system (a trait common in antivirals). People suffering from kidney or urination problems might want to look elsewhere. This clinical study points out that Valtrex can lead to kidney problems and even failure in susceptible people. And even though Valtrex has no known severe interactions with other medications, it can mildly affect some. As with any prescription medication, you should ask your doctor before trying it.

Pricing

Valtrex is available everywhere by prescription or through telemedical services like Hims, Hers, and wisp. You’ll find a price breakdown below of each of the two brands’ Valtrex products. Pricing and dosages are somewhat similar, but wisp offers a convenient one-time-purchase option that Hims and Hers lack.

Keep in mind that suppressive treatment means you take Valtrex daily. And a suppressive treatment prescription will be a bit more expensive than an as-needed episodic one.

  Monthly price One-time purchase Dose
Hims/Hers HSV-2 suppressive $39 N/A 500 mg
Hims/Hers HSV-2 episodic $20 N/A 1,000 mg
Hims/Hers HSV-1 episodic $15 N/A 1,000 mg
wisp HSV-1 and 2 suppressive $20 $65 1,000 mg
wisp HSV-1 and 2 episodic $15 $65 1,000 mg

Is Valtrex a good value?

Valtrex protects your current and future partners, relieves the pain and discomfort of outbreaks, and reduces the frequency and length of flare-ups at a low monthly price. We believe it’s an excellent value based on Valtrex’s affordability and high efficacy in treating herpes symptoms.

HSA, FSA, and Health Insurance

Nearly all forms of medical insurance cover Valtrex. You can expect to pay anywhere from $1-16 per prescription depending on your policy and copay.

If you decide to use Hims, Hers, or wisp, insurance will not cover any cost, but it’ll be about 90% less than the retail price without insurance.

Getting started with Valtrex

You’ll need to see a doctor before getting started with Valtrex and take the typical steps required for any prescription medication. You can save yourself a trip to the doctor’s office or free clinic by using telemedicine services.

Most telemedicine processes look very similar:

  1. Create an account

  2. Answer a short questionnaire about your symptoms

  3. Get product options and recommendations

  4. Consult with a doctor via call, text, or video (depending on your state)

  5. Order your products to be delivered or picked up at your local pharmacy (wisp only)

If and when you have questions, each platform offers support from doctors licensed in all 50 states even after your purchase is complete.

Privacy

Wisp, Hims, and Hers are serious about maintaining your privacy. Every shipment comes in discreet packaging without any prescription information printed on the box. They all collect your data (mainly to provide service to you and conduct marketing research).

All three services use your data to process orders and improve the user experience on their sites. They can legally share your non-personal data with affiliates, marketers, employees, and any other entity they choose. They can also share your personal data if it’s ordered by a court of law. You can limit what data they keep by modifying your cookies to only what’s necessary. You may also request to review or modify the data they keep about you.

How we evaluate health products and services

At Innerbody Research, we customize our evaluation criteria depending on the type and nature of the health-related service or product. But in general for health products and services, we have five broad areas that we explore in our evaluations, including:

Quality: How well does the company deliver its core service(s) to the customer? For testing services, does the company adhere to the latest and most advanced testing technologies and achieve a very high degree of accuracy? For non-testing telemedical or teletherapy services, is the quality of the service high enough that we would recommend it to loved ones without hesitation? If not, why not? For health products, does the product or device meet a high level of safety? Is it manufactured with high-quality standards? Has it – or have its ingredients – been subjected to effective studies that confirm effectiveness?

User-friendly: How intuitive and convenient is the service or product? Does the device, program, app, or website achieve a good degree of user-friendliness for its customers?

Value: Are you getting your money’s worth? Are there any hidden costs or charges? Does the company offer discounts?

Privacy: If health data is stored, will your data be stored securely? Are payments secure? Does a company market your information?

Customer support: Particularly in situations where ‘one size fits all’ doesn’t make sense, how well does the company help to make the service or product ideal for you or address your individual needs?

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