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November 7, 1980

Acyclovir for herpes: no clinical payoff yet

JAMA. 1980;244(18):2021-2022. doi:10.1001/jama.1980.03310180005003

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In a JAMA MEDICAL NEWS report last April 4 on promising results with the new antiherpetic drug acyclovir in tissue culture and in animal models, Jonathan H. Lass, MD, was quoted as saying: "The properties of acyclovir so far are encouraging. Exactly how close [it] comes to the bull's-eye remains to be seen (JAMA [MEDICAL NEWS] 1980;243:1315).

Well, if the results of two clinical trials described at the recent Interscience Conference on Antimicrobial Agents and Chemotherapy in New Orleans are any indication, acyclovir is right on target but as yet has made no substantial contribution to the body's fight against invading herpesviruses.

"There is an antiviral effect. That's all we're comfortable saying," Clyde Crumpacker, MD, of Harvard University Medical School, told JAMA MEDICAL NEWS.

In a double-blind study, Crumpacker, Spotswood Spruance, MD, of the University of Utah College of Medicine, Salt Lake City, and colleagues administered either acyclovir in polyethylene