Conference Coverage

Expert shares his approach to treating warts in children



In the clinical experience of Anthony J. Mancini, MD, one option for children and adolescents who present with common warts is to do nothing, since they may resolve on their own.

professor of pediatrics and dermatology, Northwestern University, Chicago.

Dr. Anthony J. Mancini

“Many effective treatments that we have are painful and poorly tolerated, especially in younger children,” Dr. Mancini, professor of pediatrics and dermatology at Northwestern University, Chicago, said during the virtual Pediatric Dermatology 2020: Best Practices and Innovations Conference. “However, while they’re harmless and often self-limited, warts often form a social stigma, and parents often desire therapy.”

He characterized classic warts as verrucous, flesh-colored papules that are sometimes extensive in immunocompromised patients and that can be associated with maceration and nail dystrophy. Even though warts may spontaneously resolve in up to 65% of patients at 2 years and 80% at 4 years, the goals of treatment are to eradicate them, minimize pain, avoid scarring, and help prevent recurrence.

One effective topical therapy he highlighted is WartPEEL cream, which is a proprietary, compounded formulation of 17% salicylic acid and 2% 5-fluorouracil. “It’s in a sustained release vehicle called Remedium, and is available from a compounding pharmacy, but not FDA approved,” said Dr. Mancini, who is also head of pediatric dermatology at Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. “It’s applied nightly with plastic tape occlusion and rinsed off each morning.”

WartPEEL is available through NuCara Pharmacy at 877-268-2272. It is not covered by most insurance plans and it costs around $80. “It is very effective, tends to be totally painless, and has a much quicker response than over-the-counter salicylic acid-based treatments for warts,” he said.

Another treatment option is oral cimetidine, especially in patients who have multiple or recalcitrant warts. The recommended dosing is 30-40 mg/kg per day, divided into twice-daily dosing. “You have to give it for at least 8-12 weeks to determine whether it’s working or not,” Dr. Mancini said. “In the initial report, [investigators] described an 81% complete response rate, but subsequent randomized, controlled trials were not able to confirm that data against placebo or topical treatments. I will say, though, that cimetidine is well tolerated. It’s always worth a try but, if you do use it, always consider other medications the patient may be taking and potential drug-drug interactions.”

For flat warts, verrucous papules that commonly occur on the face, Dr. Mancini recommends off-label treatment with 5% 5-fluorouracil cream (Efudex), which is normally indicated for actinic keratoses in adults. “I have patients apply this for 3 nights per week and work their way up gradually to nightly application,” he said. “It’s really important that parents and patients understand the importance of sun protection when they’re using Efudex, and they need to know that some irritation is possible. Overall, this treatment seems to be very well tolerated.”

Other treatment options for common warts, in addition to over-the-counter products that contain salicylic acid, are home cryotherapy kits that contain a mixture of diethyl ether and propane. “These can be effective for small warts,” Dr. Mancini said. “But for larger, thicker lesions, they’re not going to quite as effective.”

Treatment options best reserved for dermatologists, he continued, include in-office liquid nitrogen cryotherapy, “if it’s tolerated,” he said. “I have a no-hold policy, so if we have to hold a child down who’s flailing and crying and screaming during treatment, we’re probably not going to use liquid nitrogen.” He also mentioned topical immunotherapy with agents like squaric acid dibutylester. “This is almost like putting poison ivy on your warts to get the immune system revved up,” he said. “It can be very effective.” Other treatment options include intralesional immune therapy, topical cidofovir, and even pulsed-dye laser.

Dr. Mancini disclosed that he is a consultant to and a member of the scientific advisory board for Verrica Pharmaceuticals.

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