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Arch Dermatol. 2001 Oct;137(10):1357-60.

Cantharidin revisited: a blistering defense of an ancient medicine.

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New York University School of Medicine, The Ronald O. Perelman Department of Dermatology, Pediatric Dermatology Unit, 560 First Ave, Room H-100, New York, NY 10016, USA.


Cantharidin, a vesicant produced by beetles in the order Coleoptera, has a long history in both folk and traditional medicine. In dermatology, topical cantharidin has long been used to treat warts and molluscum. In 1962, cantharidin lost Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approval owing to the failure of its manufacturers to submit data attesting to cantharidin's efficacy. However, it is expected that the FDA will soon include cantharidin on its "Bulk Substances List," which would permit physicians or pharmacists to compound cantharidin to be used in the office for individual patients. A comprehensive discussion of the origins, folk uses, current FDA status, current dermatologic uses, and effects of cantharidin poisoning has been compiled herein. No cases of systemic intoxication or scarring have been reported with the proper use of cantharidin by a physician. Cantharidin is a safe and valuable medication and should be readded to the dermatologic therapeutic armamentarium.

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