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Brand NameGeneric NameChemical Name
Cantharone, Cantharone Pluscantharidin

Cantharidin is a chemical derived from the green blister beetle.

Your doctor "paints" cantharidin on your wart and covers it with a bandage. This is generally painless. The cantharidin causes the skin under the wart to blister, lifting the wart off the skin. When the blister dries, the wart comes off with the blistered skin. You may feel some pain when the skin blisters. When you see your doctor again, he or she will remove the dead skin and the wart. If the wart isn't gone after one treatment, you may need another treatment.

Cantharidin is sometimes used if salicylic acid or freezing a wart with liquid nitrogen (cryotherapy) has not successfully eliminated it.

Cantharidin should not be used:

  • On people with diabetes, peripheral arterial disease, or other circulatory problems.
  • On moles, birthmarks, unusual warts with hair growing from them, warts on the mucous membranes, or open wounds.
  • In combination with another chemical agent.
  • On or near the genital area.

Cantharidin is an effective treatment for warts.1 After the wart is gone, there usually is no scarring.

Cantharidin also may be used in children.

  • Cantharone works well for treating warts in children ages 3 and older. It is not recommended for children under 3.
  • Cantharone Plus works well for treating warts in children 12 and older. It is not recommended for children under 12.

All medicines have side effects. But many people don't feel the side effects, or they are able to deal with them. Ask your pharmacist about the side effects of each medicine you take. Side effects are also listed in the information that comes with your medicine.

Here are some important things to think about:

  • Usually the benefits of the medicine are more important than any minor side effects.
  • Side effects may go away after you take the medicine for a while.
  • If side effects still bother you and you wonder if you should keep taking the medicine, call your doctor. He or she may be able to lower your dose or change your medicine. Do not suddenly quit taking your medicine unless your doctor tells you to.

Call 911 or other emergency services right away if you have:

  • Trouble breathing.
  • Swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Call your doctor if you have:

  • Hives.

Common side effects of this medicine include:

  • Pain or mild discomfort (tingling, itching, or burning) 4 hours after treatment.
  • Tender skin for 2 to 6 days.

See Drug Reference for a full list of side effects. (Drug Reference is not available in all systems.)

Cantharidin can be used to treat warts that are resistant to other forms of treatment. It is not approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for the treatment of warts.

Cantharidin is not well researched or widely used.

Cantharidin has a low risk of scarring.

Taking medicine

Medicine is one of the many tools your doctor has to treat a health problem. Taking medicine as your doctor suggests will improve your health and may prevent future problems. If you don't take your medicines properly, you may be putting your health (and perhaps your life) at risk.

There are many reasons why people have trouble taking their medicine. But in most cases, there is something you can do. For suggestions on how to work around common problems, see the topic Taking Medicines as Prescribed.

Advice for women

Do not use this medicine if you are pregnant, breast-feeding, or planning to get pregnant. If you need to use this medicine, talk to your doctor about how you can prevent pregnancy.

Checkups

Follow-up care is a key part of your treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if you are having problems. It's also a good idea to know your test results and keep a list of the medicines you take.

Complete the new medication information form (PDF) (What is a PDF document?) to help you understand this medication.

Citations

  1. Habif TP, et al. (2011). Herpes simplex section of Viral infections. In Skin Disease: Diagnosis and Treatment, 3rd ed., pp. 224–229. Edinburgh: Saunders.


By: Healthwise Staff Last Revised: September 7, 2012
Medical Review: Patrice Burgess, MD - Family Medicine
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine

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