Acyclovir has been around since the early 1980s and its indiscriminate use was warned against from the outset. Trials of the drug have shown that its benefits are marginal; with its use there is no reduction in the frequency and severity of long-term post-shingles pain and no decrease in the quantity of painkillers taken by those treated with the drug. Acyclovir continues to be recommended in opthalmic shingles and first attack genital herpes.
The Consumers' Association's widely circulated Drug and Therapeutics Bulletin concluded last December that the minor benefits are 'not enough to justify use of acyclovir in patients who are otherwise well'.
In the case of acyclovir, the decision not to prescribe is a responsible action based on the available scientific evidence and was taken in the best interests of both the patient and the NHS. There are plenty of arguments against the fund-holding system but this is not one of them.
Dr Tim Swanwick
Vine House Health Centre
Abbots Langley, HertsReuse content