Abreva is the first (and currently only) non-prescription drug available that is used in the treatment of cold sores. While the drug cannot prevent future outbreaks, it can shorten the healing time and duration of symptoms. Abreva is applied directly to the cold sore and works best if taken at the first sign of an outbreak. Possible side effects include headaches or a stuffy, runny nose.
What Is Abreva?
Abreva® (docosanol) is a non-prescription cold sore medication. It is the only non-prescription cold sore treatment approved to shorten the healing time and the duration of cold sore symptoms.
Abreva is made by Avanir Pharmaceuticals and is distributed by GlaxoSmithKline.
How Does Abreva Work?
Cold sores are caused by viruses -- specifically, the herpes simplex virus (HSV). Abreva is not an antiviral medication in the traditional sense, since it does not attack the virus. Instead, the medication works by changing the cell membranes of healthy, uninfected cells. These changes help prevent the cold sore virus from getting into healthy cells, thereby helping to limit the cold sore infection.
It is important to understand that once a person has been infected with the cold sore virus, the virus never goes away. It remains inactive in certain nerve cells of the body, waiting to become active again. Treatment with Abreva does not prevent future cold sore outbreaks.
Written by/reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;Arthur Schoenstadt, MD
Last reviewed by: KristiMonson, PharmD;
List of references (click here):
Abreva [package insert]. Moon Township, PA: GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare;2007 May.
Food and Drug Administration, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. Abreva medical review (7/25/2000). FDA Web site. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/cder/foi/nda/2000/20-941_Abreva.htm. Accessed August 23, 2007.
Food and Drug Administration, Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. Electronic orange book: approved drug products with therapeutic equivalence evaluations. FDA Web site. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/cder/ob/. Accessed February 7, 2014.
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