The most common antiviral agents are prescribed by physicians to combat viruses that try to take over the cells in the human body in order to replicate. Once the virus has entered the cell, it is able to make copies of itself and release the new copies into the body to invade other cells. The antiviral drugs developed by pharmaceutical companies are made to interrupt the replication process of the virus. Many of the antiviral drugs used today are intended to treat influenza types A and B, the herpes virus, and human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).
Acyclovir, or Valtrex®, is the most common antiviral agent used to treat herpes infections and cold sores that develop on the lips. The medication is available for oral dosage or in a cream to spread over the lesions. It does not cure the herpes infection, but shortens the healing time and the severity of the outbreak. It can be given to children under a doctor’s supervision.
Symmetrel, Tamiflu® and Flumadine® are effective in treating the influenza virus. Doctors recommend the vaccination to prevent the influenza infection. A regimen of these antiviral drugs can also help shorten the length of the illness once a patient is infected.
HIV and AIDS require a combination of antiviral drugs given several times daily to keep the virus from taking over the body. The most common antiviral agents used to treat these infections are prescribed in groups of three and four medications. The medications must be taken together because the antiviral drugs are each interrupting a different part of the viral replication process. It is important to take the medications at evenly spaced times throughout the day to ensure that a constant level of antiviral drugs are maintained throughout the body.
The most common antiviral agents prescribed for AIDS and HIV are Epivir, Kaletra®, Retrovir®, Norvir®, and Ziagen. Some medications that have been approved for the treatment of children with HIV or AIDS are Agenerase, Sustiva®, Crixavan, and Viracept. Antiviral agents used to treat children and adults with AIDS are prescribed in combination with two to three other antiviral drugs. The ability of the drugs to fight the disease depends on all the medications being taken together at regular intervals.
Antiviral medications may interact with other medications and dietary supplements, so it is important that the physician prescribing the antiviral agents be aware of all medications being taken. Side effects of the most common antiviral agents are diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, trouble concentrating, sleep disturbances, and headaches. The side effects will generally lessen as the duration that the medication is being taken increases.