Medically reviewed by, Russell Braun RPH
That painful tingling, burning and itching on your lip has finally turned into a full fledged fever blister. It has become bothersome enough that you find yourself in the pharmacy looking for a treatment. As you scan the aisles you wonder if you should go see your doctor, or just pick up something and try to treat it yourself?
Well you are not alone! According to the CDC by age 49 nearly 60% of the population will have the Herpes simplex virus (HSV-1) which is what causes cold sores. Once infected there is a risk of cold sores appearing for the rest of your life.
The good news? Abreva can help prevent and clear up and those painful blisters and soars.
What is Abreva?
Abreva also known by the generic name docosanol is a mediation that blocks the effects of the herpes simplex virus. When this virus enters the nerve cells it causes what doctors call herpes labialis, also known as:
- Fever blister
- Cold sore
It is the only non-prescription medication available to treat this condition. It has been shown to shorten the time it takes for the sores to go away. The primary symptoms that Abreva will control include:
Abreva is sold over the counter (OTC), meaning it does not require a prescription. Still in some cases your doctor may give you a prescription so the pharmacist can help you find the correct OTC product.
There are two different ways Abreva 10% cream is sold, in a tube or a pump.
How does Abreva work?
Docosanol, the active ingredient in Abreva works by slowing the replication of the herpes simplex virus. It does this by blocking the part of the virus that allows it to connect to healthy cells. This prevents the virus from entering new cells that have not yet been infected.
Ultimately, this prevents the virus from spreading and the sore heals more quickly.
It does not prevent you from spreading the virus to others!
The length of time to getting a cold sore to go away depends on a few variables.
1. The amount of stress you are under.
Stress has been shown to trigger cold sore flare ups. It can also keep a cold sore around longer. The hormone cortisol, which is released when the body is under stress has numerous negative effects. It is speculated that it is to blame for our immune system weakening and letting the virus start to replicate.
2. When you start taking Abreva.
Due to the way Abreva works, it needs to be started as soon as the cold sore is noticed in order to prevent new cells from being infected.
On average, cold sores last 8-10 days, Abreva can help reduce that to 4 days.
Abreva needs to be applied 5 times per day until the cold sore is gone. That can feel like you are using it all the time!
Applying it 5 times per day is about every three hours that you are awake. Due to this very frequent schedule most people do not over apply Abreva. Using it more frequently also does not make it work faster.
How much does Abreva cost?
Abreva costs between $16 – $17 per 0.07 ounces of the 10% cream on Amazon.com. It is sold in a tube like most creams and also comes in a pump dosage form.
Some pharmacies will sell Abreva cream at a higher price point closer to $23 per tube.
Ways to save money on Abreva… coupon or no coupon?
1. Is there a generic version of Abreva?
There are generic versions of Abreva available for sale at this time. Most are the store brands made by large retailers such as CVS and Walgreens.
These generics have lowered the price of brand name Abreva from about $40 when it was brand only down to the $16 range. That was the new price of the generic formulations, over a 50% savings.
However, to keep market share, the Abreva manufacturer lowered the prices so now brand and generic are virtually the exact same cost. Therefore, wherever you can find the best store discount or an Abreva coupon is the way to save the most money.
2. Are there therapeutic alternatives to Abreva?
A therapeutic alternative is a drug that had different chemical contents, but has the same effects as other drugs for treating a condition. Abreva does have generic alternative and it also has therapeutic alternatives. Some of these therapeutic alternatives have generics as well, which also means they will be substantially cheaper.
Therapeutic alternatives to Abreva
When it comes to treating cold sores, Abreva cream is the only FDA approved over the counter (OTC) drug shown to shorten duration of the cold sore. However, these prescription medications that are taken by mouth also have shown to shorten duration as well. Acyclovir needs to be taken 5 times per day for five days. Valacyclovir only has to be taken twice a day for one day.
As you can see both of these can lower the cost to treat your cold sores. However, if you have to pay for a doctors office copay it might wipe out the savings.
BestRxforSavings tip: If you have had cold sores or fever blisters in the past your doctor may just call you in a script for future cases without an office visit.
3. Utilize drug discount programs to research alternatives
Drug discount programs are available today in a variety of formats. These discount programs negotiate prices with one or all of the following to get discounts.
- Pharmacy benefit managers (PBM’s)
- Drug manufacturers
Most work with pharmacies who want to show up in the search function on the discount programs website or mobile application. Therefore, patients can see a discounted price the pharmacy negotiates with the discount program. Keep in mind these can not be used with insurance, but instead when the negotiated price is better than the price with insurance. Most people would not think the discount price could be better than insurance, but many times it is. A few of the major discount programs available today include:
Again, checking to see if the therapeutic alternatives that have generics are cheaper without insurance is a good idea. Many times your insurance copay might be more than what you can buy them for from the pharmacy paying cash.
Things to remember about drug discount programs!
You will need your doctor to write you a prescription.
Even though Abreva is only over the counter, for a drug discount program to work it has to have a prescription. The requirement has to do with how these services offer their discounts. Over the counter drugs are typically not searchable by these vendors.
4. How much does Abreva cost with insurance?
Abreva is an OTC medication. That means insurance will likely not cover it. That means you have to pay for it out of your own pocket.
Remember, if you have an HSA or an FSA money you spend on OTC drugs like Abreva can be paid for out of those funds.
The two therapeutic alternatives listed above to Abreva are normally covered. Given that they have generics most insurance plans will cover them. If you have a low copay for generic drugs this might be your best bet.
5. Does Medicare pay for Abreva?
Abreva is NOT covered by Medicare. Again, the reason is it is an OTC drug.
To find out if therapeutic alternatives are covered go to Medicare.gov and use the plan compare tool. Follow the prompts and provide your basic information about prescriptions and pharmacy preference. Next, you will see many details about coverage, focus in on two things:
- Drug deductible
- Pharmacies & prescription drugs
Clicking on the link under pharmacies & prescription drugs will show you exactly how much these drugs would cost you monthly and yearly.
6. Do doctors have Abreva free samples?
I always encourage people to try samples before paying for any medication. Brand name drugs that are prescription will have samples that the manufacturer provides to doctors. Sampling the medication allows a trial where it can be determined if the medication is going to be well tolerated or not. For the best outcome I recommend bullet journaling medication effects.
Unfortunately, samples are not provided to doctors for OTC drugs like they are for prescription medications.
7. Abreva coupons
GlaxoSmithKline the manufacturer of Abreva does offer a coupon. If you go to their website you can grab one that will get you $1.50 off Abreva. They require you to enter the following information to get the coupon:
- First name
- Last name
- Zip code
- Email address
The data gathered may be used to send you health information and promotional offers, so be ready for a few emails.
Keys to remember about Abreva coupon
- The GlaxoSmithKline coupon can be used each time you purchase Abreva.
- Other coupons are typically not legitimate and end up with you receiving a barrage of offers from couponing websites.
Click here to get Dr. Jason Reed’s exclusive list of medication questions you MUST ask your doctor, for FREE!
Share your story
Have you tried Abreva? Also, let us know if it worked for you? Please chime in below with your comments and thoughts.