Mechanism of action

Valaciclovir is a prodrug, an esterified version of aciclovir that has greater oral bioavailability (about 55%) than aciclovir (10–20%). It is converted by esterases to the active drug aciclovir, as well as the amino acid valine, via hepatic first-pass metabolism. Aciclovir is selectively converted into a monophosphate form by viral thymidine kinase, which is far more effective (3000 times) in phosphorylation of aciclovir than cellular thymidine kinase. Subsequently, the monophosphate form is further phosphorylated into the active triphosphate form, aciclo-GTP, by cellular kinases. Aciclo-GTP is a very potent inhibitor of viral DNA polymerase; it has approximately 100 times higher affinity to viral than cellular polymerase. Its monophosphate form also incorporates into the viral DNA, resulting in chain termination. It has also been shown that the viral enzymes cannot remove aciclo-GMP from the chain, which results in inhibition of further activity of DNA polymerase. Aciclo-GTP is fairly rapidly metabolised within the cell, possibly by cellular phosphatases.

Valaciclovir (INN) or valacyclovir (USAN) is an antiviral drug used in the management of herpes simplex, herpes zoster (shingles), and herpes B. It is a prodrug, being converted in vivo to aciclovir. It is marketed by GlaxoSmithKline under the trade names Valtrex and Zelitrex. Valaciclovir has been available as a generic drug in the U.S. since November 25, 2009.