Herpes Home > Abreva

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.
(Click Abreva Uses for more information, including possible off-label uses.)

Who Makes Abreva?

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:
Last reviewed by: Kristi Monson, PharmD;
Last updated/reviewed:
List of references (click here):
Other Articles in This eMedTV Presentation

Topics & Medications


Related Channels

eMedTV Links
Copyright © 2006-2020 Clinaero, Inc.

eMedTV serves only as an informational resource. This site does not dispense medical advice or advice of any kind. Site users seeking medical advice about their specific situation should consult with their own physician. Click Terms of Use for more information.

This site complies with the HONcode standard for trustworthy health information:
verify here.