Hesperian Health Guides

Medicines for Genital Warts


Podofilox comes as a liquid to treat warts around the genitals and as gel to treat warts around the anus or the genitals. Don’t confuse it with podophyllin, also used for genital warts, but more harmful if not used correctly. Podofilox is safer to use.

The health worker can apply it for the first time in the clinic to show how to do it. The person may need help using podofilox if the warts are hard to see or to reach. Apply the liquid with a cotton swab or the gel with a finger. Wash hands after use. Wait until it dries before putting clothes on.

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Podofilox can irritate skin, causing it to thin, break, and bleed.


Do not use this if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.

If severe skin irritation occurs, do not use it again.

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For genital warts:
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Using liquid or gel, treat the warts twice a day (morning and evening) for 3 days. Then stop using for 4 days. Repeat the 3 days of treatment and 4 days without treatment up to 4 weeks total. Stop when the warts are gone. If the warts remain after 4 weeks, do not keep using podofilix. See a health worker for a different treatment.

Trichloroacetic acid and bichloroacetic acid

Trichloroacetic acid or bichloroacetic acid are acids applied directly on genital warts to shrink them. An experienced health worker can do this to avoid serious burns.

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Trichloroacetic acid and bichloracetic acid will hurt or destroy normal skin when they touch it.


Use very carefully. It will burn and can cause a scar.

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They come as liquids in strengths of 10% to 35%.

For genital warts:
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First protect the area around the wart with petroleum gel. Then use a cotton swab or clean cloth rolled to a fine point to apply small amounts of trichloroacetic acid or bichloroacetic acid only to warts bit by bit until they turn white. Apply once a week for 1 to 3 weeks, as needed.

It will hurt for 15 to 30 minutes. If it touches healthy skin, wash it off right away with soap and water.

If the treatment is working, a painful sore will appear where the wart used to be. Stop treatment. If there is too much irritation, wait longer before the next treatment. Sores should heal within a week or two. Keep sores clean and dry and watch for infection.

This page was updated:07 Jun 2021