Imiquimod is a prescription medicine approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It is a cream for topical (on the skin) use only. The cream is available in three strengths: 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 healthy 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 healthy 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). In people with HIV, 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. To learn more about opportunistic infections, read the AIDSinfo What is an Opportunistic Infection? fact sheet.
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:
The above list may not include all of the HIV-related uses of imiquimod recommended in the Guidelines for the Prevention and Treatment of Opportunistic Infections in HIV-Infected Adults and Adolescents. Some recommended uses, such as uses in certain rare circumstances, may have been omitted.
Before using 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 use and when to use 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: March 10, 2017