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May 1958

Treatment of Warts with Cantharidin

Author Affiliations


From the Department of Dermatology (Donald M. Pillsbury, M.D., Director), University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

AMA Arch Derm. 1958;77(5):508-511. doi:10.1001/archderm.1958.01560050014003

Warts are viral tumors of the epidermis. They may be destroyed by a great variety of physical and chemical means; while none is perfect, most are useful. Because of the special ability of cantharidin to disorganize epidermal cells, we decided to explore its use as a chemotherapeutic agent in warts.

Materials and Methods

Cantharides is dried, powdered blister beetle. Cantharidin is its purified active ingredient.* Its primary cutaneous effect is the separation (acantholysis) and death of epidermal cells.1

For topical treatment, cantharidin is prepared as a 0.7% solution in equal parts of acetone and flexible collodion U. S. P. The cantharidin is first dissolved in acetone. The solution should be kept in a tightly stoppered bottle. The kind which has a glass rod fixed to the cap is convenient for applying the solution. Some degree of evaporation with usage is inevitable but ordinarily may be disregarded, since

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