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Antiviral Medications

What Are Antiviral Medications Used For? 

Antiviral medications fight off viruses that cause certain medical conditions. Viruses are microscopic infective agents that have the capability to multiply or grow inside the living cells of the body. They can attach to host cells and kill them. Viruses can spread through skin-to-skin contact, contaminated bodily products, or bug bites. This type of medication can either help ease the symptoms or shorten the duration of a disease. They can also be administered to prevent viral infections. Antivirals usually come in the form of a pill, liquid suspension, inhaled powder, or intravenous solution. 

Each antiviral medication is indicated for specific viruses. Some of the common or chronic viral infections that can be treated or managed with an antiviral are as follows: 

  • Flu, like H1N1 or swine flu 
  • Coronavirus, including COVID-19 
  • Hepatitis B 
  • Hepatitis C 
  • Ebola 
  • Genital Herpes 
  • Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) 

How Do Antiviral Medications Work? 

Researchers started developing antiviral drugs in the 1960s. Initially, their goal is to do trial-and-error in order to find a cure for the herpes virus. It was not until the 1980’s that they were able to determine the full genetic sequences of viruses and how they exactly work. Consequently, researchers were able to come up with formulations that can impede the reproduction of viruses in the body. 

While the development of antivirals can be challenging, researchers were able to come up with different mechanisms of action. Antiviral prescriptions work depending on the type of virus it intends to treat. Here are some of the ways an antiviral could work: 

  • By blocking receptors that allow viruses to bind and enter host cells 
  • By boosting the body’s immune system to help fight off viral infections 
  • By decreasing the viral load in the body 

Is Antiviral Medication Same as Antibiotics? 

Antibiotic and antiviral prescriptions are both prescribed for the treatment of infectious diseases. These terms are also commonly used interchangeably. However, they are not the same. 

Antiviral medications are intended to manage medical conditions that are caused by some viruses. On the other hand, antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections, like urinary tract infections (UTIs), acne, pneumonia, or ear infections, among others. Antivirals will not work for bacteria the same way as antibiotics cannot be effective for viruses. 

Among the common antiviral medications are: 

  • Oseltamivir (Tamiflu) 
  • Penciclovir 
  • Peramivir 
  • Acyclovir 
  • Remdesivir
  • Nirmatrevlvir / Ritonavir 
  • Bictegravir / Tenofovir Alafenamide / Emtricitabine 

Meanwhile, some of the common antibiotics are: 

  • Penicillins 
  • Cephalosporins (cephalexin, ceftriaxone) 
  • Tetracyclines (doxycycline) 
  • Macrolides (azithromycin, clarithromycin) 
  • Fluoroquinolones (ofloxacin, ciprofloxacin) 
  • Sulfonamides 
  • Glycopeptides 

Aside from having respective mechanisms of action, these two types of drugs also have different side effects. How these medications should be administered will also vary. 

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