Imiquimod is a prescription medicine approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It is a cream that is meant to be applied topically (on the skin only). There are several different strengths of imiquimod cream available: 2.5%, 3.75%, and 5%. All three strengths are approved to treat actinic keratosis (AK)—a skin condition that may develop into skin cancer—on the face or scalp in adults with normal immune systems. Imiquimod cream 5% is approved to treat some types of primary superficial basal cell carcinoma (sBCC)—a type of skin cancer—in adults with normal immune systems.
Additionally, imiquimod creams 3.75% and 5% are approved to treat external genital warts (warts on the outside of the genitals) and perianal warts (warts around the outside of the anus) in people 12 years of age and older. External genital and perianal warts are caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is an opportunistic infection. An opportunistic infection is an infection that occurs more frequently or is more severe in people with weakened immune systems—such as those infected with HIV—than in people with healthy immune systems.
Imiquimod can also be used “off-label” to treat other opportunistic infections of HIV infection. “Off-label” use refers to use of an FDA-approved medicine in a manner different from that described on the medicine label. Good medical practice and the best interests of a patient sometimes require that a medicine be used “off-label.”
The Guidelines for the Prevention and Treatment of Opportunistic Infections in HIV-Infected Adults and Adolescents, prepared by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and the HIV Medicine Association of the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA-HIVMA), includes recommendations on the HIV-related use of imiquimod to treat:
Before taking imiquimod, tell your health care provider:
Ask your health care provider about possible side effects from imiquimod. Your health care provider will tell you what to do if you have side effects.
Take imiquimod according to your health care provider’s instructions. Your health care provider will tell you how much imiquimod to take and when to take it. Before you start imiquimod and each time you get a refill, read any printed information that comes with your medicine.
More information about imiquimod is available:
Last Reviewed: April 23, 2015