Famciclovir. A review of its pharmacological properties and therapeutic efficacy in herpesvirus infections

Drugs. 1995 Aug;50(2):396-415. doi: 10.2165/00003495-199550020-00011.


Famciclovir, a synthetic acyclic guanine derivative, is a prodrug which, after oral administration, is rapidly metabolised to the highly bioavailable antiviral compound penciclovir. Penciclovir is active in vitro against the herpesviruses herpes simplex virus (HSV)-1, HSV-2 and varicella zoster virus (VZV). Famciclovir is an effective treatment of immunocompetent patients with acute herpes zoster (shingles) caused by VZV. Comparative studies have demonstrated that famciclovir has therapeutic efficacy similar to that of oral aciclovir (acyclovir) in attenuating the acute signs and symptoms of infection (including pain during the acute phase of infection). In a placebo-controlled study, famciclovir significantly reduced the duration of postherpetic neuralgia; this effect was more pronounced (almost a 3-fold reduction) in patients aged > or = 50 years. In immunocompetent patients with recurrent genital herpes infection, suppressive treatment with oral famciclovir effectively prolonged the time to recurrence of symptomatic episodes of infection compared with placebo. In addition, famciclovir significantly reduced the duration of viral shedding, accelerated healing of genital herpes lesions and reduced the duration of symptoms. Famciclovir is reported to be the first antiviral agent to significantly reduce symptoms associated with multiple genital herpes lesions. Famciclovir is a well-tolerated drug with a tolerability profile similar to that of placebo and aciclovir. Thus, famciclovir is now established as an effective treatment of immunocompetent patients with herpes zoster or genital herpes infection, particularly as famciclovir is administered in a convenient dosage regimen that may improve compliance compared with aciclovir.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • 2-Aminopurine / administration & dosage
  • 2-Aminopurine / analogs & derivatives*
  • 2-Aminopurine / pharmacokinetics
  • 2-Aminopurine / pharmacology
  • 2-Aminopurine / therapeutic use
  • Absorption
  • Administration, Oral
  • Aging / metabolism
  • Antiviral Agents / administration & dosage
  • Antiviral Agents / pharmacokinetics
  • Antiviral Agents / pharmacology
  • Antiviral Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Controlled Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Drug Tolerance
  • Famciclovir
  • Herpes Genitalis / drug therapy
  • Herpes Zoster / drug therapy
  • Herpesviridae Infections / drug therapy*
  • Humans
  • Kidney Diseases / physiopathology
  • Liver Diseases / physiopathology


  • Antiviral Agents
  • 2-Aminopurine
  • Famciclovir