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Interferon for Genital Warts (Human Papillomavirus)

Examples

Generic Name Brand Name
interferon alfa-2b Intron A
interferon alfa-n3 Alferon N
interferon beta-1b Betaseron
interferon gamma-1b Actimmune

How It Works

Interferon can kill viruses and prevent them from reproducing. It also stimulates the body's immune system to fight viruses, including the human papillomavirus (HPV) that causes genital warts.

Interferon is given by injection just under the skin at the base of the wart. A common injection schedule is 3 injections a week for 3 weeks or 2 injections a week for 8 weeks, depending on the type of interferon. You are treated in your doctor's office or clinic.

Interferon also comes in a cream form that can be applied to the skin, but it is less common.1

Why It Is Used

Interferon will not be the medicine your doctor recommends first for genital warts. Interferon may be used when other treatments (medicine or surgery) have failed or are not possible.

Interferon should not be used during pregnancy, because it may harm the fetus.

How Well It Works

It is unknown how well interferon works when it is injected into the base of a wart. Some studies show that the interferon cream can be helpful, but it is not available everywhere.1

Side Effects

Interferon injected into warts has side effects such as:

  • Fever and chills.
  • Muscle aches.
  • Pain at the injection site.
  • Hives.
  • A temporary decrease in white blood cells, which fight infection in the body.
  • A decrease in the blood component that helps blood to clot (platelets).

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

What To Think About

Research studies continue to look at how interferon can be used together with other treatments.

Genital warts may go away on their own. Also, treating genital warts may not cure a human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. The virus may remain in the body in an inactive state after warts are removed. A person treated for genital warts may still be able to spread the infection. Condoms may help reduce the risk of HPV infection.

The benefits and effectiveness of each type of treatment need to be compared with the side effects and cost. Discuss this with your doctor.

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References

Citations

  1. Buck HW (2010). Warts (genital), search date December 2009. Online version of BMJ Clinical Evidence: http://www.clinicalevidence.com.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Primary Medical Reviewer Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Kirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
Last Revised June 21, 2012

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