Failure of acyclovir cream in treatment of recurrent herpes labialis

Br Med J (Clin Res Ed). 1985 Jul 6;291(6487):7-9. doi: 10.1136/bmj.291.6487.7.


A double blind, randomised, crossover placebo controlled trial of 5% acyclovir cream, applied topically five times a day for five days, was carried out in 45 patients with recurrent herpes labialis. These patients had a total of 72 episodes, 34 of which were treated with the 5% acyclovir cream and 38 with placebo cream. Treatment was begun by the patients as soon as possible after the onset of prodromal symptoms. There was no significant clinical benefit from treatment with acyclovir cream compared with placebo cream. The median healing times were nine days with acyclovir cream, 10 days with placebo cream, and 13 days when no treatment was given. The possibility that the 40% propylene glycol cream base alone has a therapeutic effect must therefore be considered.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Randomized Controlled Trial

MeSH terms

  • Acyclovir / administration & dosage
  • Acyclovir / therapeutic use*
  • Administration, Topical
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents / therapeutic use
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Herpes Labialis / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Propylene Glycol
  • Propylene Glycols / therapeutic use
  • Random Allocation
  • Recurrence


  • Anti-Inflammatory Agents
  • Propylene Glycols
  • Propylene Glycol
  • Acyclovir