Podophyllotoxin

Sounds like 'poh-DOFF-lo-tox-in'

Easy-to-read medicine information about podophyllotoxin – what it is, how to use it safely and possible side effects.

Type of medicine Also called
  • A plant extract for removing warts
  • Condyline®

What is podophyllotoxin?

Podophyllotoxin is used to treat external genital warts. It comes as a solution that is applied onto the warts. Podophyllotoxin acts by preventing viral wart cells from dividing and multiplying. Eventually all the wart cells die and new healthy cells grow in their place. It is not recommended for use in women because it is too difficult to apply to the genital area.

Dose

Apply to warts two times a day (in the morning and the evening) for 3 consecutive days. This is then followed by 4 days without treatment. Repeat the treatment every week until the wart is gone or for up to 5 weeks.

How to use podophyllotoxin

  • Wash the affected area with soap and water, and dry completely before applying the solution.
  • Podophyllotoxin solution can irritate healthy skin. To avoid this, apply a protective layer of vaseline or zinc ointment on the area around the wart before applying the solution.
  • Using one of the supplied cotton-tipped applicators, apply solution to just cover each wart. Make sure the treated area is dry before allowing the treated skin to come in contact with normal, untreated skin.
  • Take care that the solution does not come into contact with the healthy skin. If it does come into contact with healthy skin, flush with water for 15 minutes.
  • Wash your hands thoroughly after each application.
  • Always use the solution exactly as your doctor has told you. The pharmacy label on your medicine will tell you how much to use, how often to use it and any special instructions.

Special instructions

  • Sexual contact is not generally recommended while you are treating genital warts. You should ideally wait until your warts have gone and your skin has healed.
  • If you do have sex, use a condom, as the warts can be passed to your partner and also the podophyllotoxin can cause irritation for your partner. It is also commonly advised that you use condoms for a time even after the warts have gone.
  • Take care not to get the solution in your eyes and nostrils or on your lips. If it does come into contact with these areas, flush with water for 15 minutes.
  • Let your doctor know if you are pregnant, plan to become pregnant or are breastfeeding.
  • Keep this medicine out of sight and out of reach of children.

Possible side effects

Like all medicines, podophyllotoxin can cause side effects, although not everyone gets them. Often side effects improve as your body gets used to the new medicine.

Side effects What should I do?
  • Skin redness, itching and burning
  • This is quite common the second or third day of application, but tends to be mild.
  • Tell your doctor if the area starts to bleed or becomes very painful.

Learn more

The following links have more information on podophyllotoxin.

Condyline Medsafe Consumer Information  
Podophyllotoxin DermNet NZ

References

  1. Podophyllotoxin New Zealand Formulary
  2. Condyline Medsafe Data sheet
  3. Guidelines for the management of genital, anal and throat HPV infection in New Zealand 9 ed 2017
Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist. Reviewed By: Angela Lambie, Pharmacist, Auckland Last reviewed: 04 Jul 2018