Valtrex and herpes treatment

Nearly one in two African-American adults has genital herpes. Could it be you? Could it be your partner? ... A simple blood test is the best way to know if you have it.
That's the language of an advertisement that has begun running in publications and on radio stations with largely black audiences.
The ad is part of a campaign by drug maker GlaxoSmithKline to educate blacks about genital herpes, a sexually transmitted disease that is far more common among blacks than other racial or ethnic groups. The effort has divided public health authorities and raised complicated questions about race, sex, disease and commerce.
As a pharmaceutical marketing tool, it may set a new standard for candor - and controversy.
The "Say Yes to Knowing" campaign partners Glaxo with the National Medical Association, the country's main society of black physicians, and the American Social Health Association, a nearly century-old organization devoted to fighting what used to be called venereal disease. Each has received money from Glaxo in the past, although no donations were made in connection with this effort.
The campaign was introduced last month in Detroit, where it had the support of the local health department. In Baltimore the health commissioner has declined to endorse it.
Glaxo makes one of three drugs for genital herpes, which is caused by herpes simplex virus types 1 or 2. The infection cannot be cured, but it can be suppressed with daily medication.
Some experts worry that the campaign may lead to widespread testing and large-scale treatment of people who do not have symptoms - a strategy not recommended by federal health authorities. Even Glaxo's supporters think the effort is likely to be controversial.
A federal survey in the early 1990s found that 21 percent of American adults had the infection. Among blacks, the rate was 48 percent. A follow-up survey this decade found that the national prevalence had fallen to 17 percent, but in blacks it had not gone down significantly.
Genital herpes poses two chief hazards, apart from pain and embarrassment. Active infection in late pregnancy can cause devastating illness in a newborn. Infection also triples the risk of acquiring the AIDS virus from an HIV-infected person.
Treatment can be expensive. Although generic acyclovir, the oldest antiherpes drug, costs as little as $9.96 for a month's supply, Glaxo's Valtrex costs $192.88.
Glaxo officials describe the campaign as largely an educational experiment. The company is surveying about 100 people in each city before and after the campaign to see if they learned anything about genital herpes.