Which medications in the drug class Keratolytic Agents are used in the treatment of Human Papillomavirus (HPV)?

Updated: Feb 20, 2020
  • Author: Peter A Gearhart, MD; Chief Editor: Pranatharthi Haran Chandrasekar, MBBS, MD  more...
  • Print

Keratolytic Agents

Antimitotic drugs arrest dividing cells in mitosis, resulting in the death of proliferating cells. They cause cornified epithelium to swell, soften, macerate, and then desquamate. Many of them are chemotherapeutic agents. The drugs listed below are used specifically for treatment of EGWs or condylomata acuminata.

Keratolytic agents are used to aid in removal of keratin in hyperkeratotic skin disorders, including corns, ichthyoses, common warts, flat warts, and other benign verrucae.

Podofilox (Condylox)

Podofilox is a topical antimitotic that can be synthesized chemically or purified from the plant families Coniferae and Berberidaceae (eg, species of Juniperus and Podophyllum). It is the active agent of podophyllin resin and is available as a 0.5% solution. Treatment results in necrosis of visible wart tissue; the exact mechanism of action is unknown. Treatment should be limited to no more than 10 cm2 of wart tissue, and no more than 0.5 mL/day of solution should be given. This is a patient-applied therapy.

Podophyllum resin (Podocon-25)

Podophyllin is derived from May apple (Podophyllum peltatum Linné) and contains the active agent podophyllotoxin, a cytotoxic substance that arrests mitosis in metaphase. American podophyllum contains one fourth the amount of podophyllotoxin that Indian podophyllum does. The potency of podophyllin varies considerably between batches. The exact mechanism of action is unknown.

Podophyllin is used as a topical treatment for benign growths, including external genital and perianal warts, papillomas, and fibroids. It results in necrosis when applied to anogenital warts. Only a trained medical professional can apply it, and it cannot be dispensed to a patient.

Trichloroacetic acid 85% (Tri-Chlor)

Trichloroacetic acid (TCA) is a highly corrosive desiccating agent that cauterizes skin, keratin, and other tissues and is used to burn lesions. Although it is caustic, it causes less local irritation and systemic toxicity than other agents in the same class. However, response often is incomplete, and recurrence is common.

Most clinicians use 25-50% TCA, although some use concentrations as high as 85% and then neutralize with either water or bicarbonate. Tissue sloughs and subsequently heals in 7-10 days. TCA therapy is less destructive than laser surgery, electrocautery, or cryotherapy.

Salicylic acid (Compound W, Dr. Scholl's Clear Away Warts, Freezone)

By dissolving the intercellular cement substance, salicylic acid produces desquamation of the horny layer of skin without affecting the structure of viable epidermis. It is used for removal of nongenital cutaneous warts, particularly common or plantar warts. Before application, wash the affected area. The wart may be soaked in warm water for 5 minutes. Dry the area thoroughly.

Did this answer your question?
Additional feedback? (Optional)
Thank you for your feedback!