Penicillin is an antiviral drug

Antivirals: antiviral agents

Antivirals are, as their name suggests, directed against viruses. There are far fewer antivirals than antibiotics and they are generally more problematic to use. On the one hand, this is due to the fact that there are no “all-round talents” among antivirals: the antivirals available today are only ever effective against a few viruses. On the other hand, viruses can only multiply within cells and make use of many components of the human cell - drugs that inhibit virus replication usually also affect humans. The exception is the localized application of antivirals on the skin, for example with cold sores ("cold sores"). There are practically no side effects here (but the blisters also disappear on their own).

  • Acyclovir (e.g. Zovirax®), famciclovir (e.g. Famvir®) and valaciclovir (e.g. Valtrex®) are used.
  • Neuraminidase inhibitors (Oseltamivir, e.g. Tamiflu®, and Zanamivir, e.g. Relenza®) can shorten a viral flu - but only one caused by influenza types A and B, and only if taken within the first 1-2 days Start of complaint. The same applies to amantadine (Amantadin Hexal®), which is otherwise given for Parkinson's disease.
  • The agents of choice for certain infectious liver inflammations are ribavirin (e.g. Rebetol®, Copegus®) and lamivudine (e.g. Zeffix®), possibly in combination with interferons. The latter also have an antiviral effect as the body's own messenger substances.
  • Medicines against HIV infection or AIDS.


Dr. med. Nicole Menche, Dr. med. Arne Schäffler in: Gesundheit heute, edited by Dr. med. Arne Schäffler. Trias, Stuttgart, 3rd edition (2014). Revision and update: Dr. med. Sonja Kempinski | last changed on at 13:09