Aldara – An Overview of the OTC Anti-Viral Drug and Its Uses

Introduction to Aldara: A Short General Description of the Drug

What is Aldara?

Aldara is a prescription cream that contains the active ingredient imiquimod. It is classified as an immune response modifier and is used for the treatment of certain skin conditions such as actinic keratosis, superficial basal cell carcinoma, and external genital and perianal warts.

Link to authoritative source: RxList

How does Aldara work?

Aldara works by stimulating the immune system to produce natural substances that help fight against abnormal skin cell growth. When applied topically, Aldara activates certain cells in the immune system, called dendritic cells, which release cytokines and other chemicals that initiate an antiviral and antitumor response.

Link to authoritative source: MedicineNet

Indications and uses of Aldara:

  • Treatment of actinic keratosis: Aldara is often prescribed for the treatment of actinic keratosis, a precancerous condition caused by frequent sun exposure. It helps to remove the abnormal cells and stimulate the growth of healthier skin.
  • Treatment of superficial basal cell carcinoma: Aldara is sometimes used for the treatment of superficial basal cell carcinoma, a type of skin cancer that develops in the top layer of the skin. It can be an alternative to surgery or other invasive treatments.
  • Treatment of external genital and perianal warts: Aldara is also approved for the treatment of external genital warts and perianal warts, which are caused by certain strains of the human papillomavirus (HPV).

Link to authoritative source: MedicineNet

Common side effects of Aldara:

  • Local skin reactions: The most common side effects of Aldara include redness, swelling, itching, and flaking of the skin at the application site. These local reactions are usually mild to moderate in severity and may occur within the first few weeks of treatment.
  • Flu-like symptoms: Some individuals may experience flu-like symptoms such as fever, fatigue, headache, muscle and joint pain, and nausea. These symptoms are generally temporary and subside with continued use of the cream.
  • Other side effects: Other less common side effects include application site reactions such as blisters, erosion, and ulceration, as well as cold sores, diarrhea, and abnormal liver function tests.

Link to authoritative source: RxList

Anti-viral Drugs Over the Counter (OTC)


In today’s fast-paced world, people are always looking for quick and easy solutions to their health problems. When it comes to viral infections, over-the-counter (OTC) anti-viral drugs have become popular choices for many individuals. These drugs offer convenience and accessibility, allowing people to address viral infections without the need for a prescription.

Benefits of Over-the-Counter Anti-viral Drugs

There are several benefits to using OTC anti-viral drugs:

  • Convenience: OTC drugs can be purchased without a prescription, eliminating the need for a doctor’s visit.
  • Accessibility: These drugs are readily available in pharmacies, supermarkets, and online stores, making them easy to obtain.
  • Cost-effective: OTC drugs are generally more affordable compared to prescription medications.
  • Treatment at early stages: OTC anti-viral drugs allow people to start treatment early when symptoms first appear, increasing the chances of faster recovery.
  • Reduced healthcare burden: By using OTC drugs, individuals can manage minor viral infections themselves, reducing the strain on healthcare systems.

Types of Over-the-Counter Anti-viral Drugs

There are different types of OTC anti-viral drugs available for various viral infections. Some of the popular ones include:

1. Cold and Flu Medications

Cold and flu medications target common symptoms of respiratory viral infections, such as congestion, cough, and fever. These drugs may contain ingredients like acetaminophen, decongestants, cough suppressants, and antihistamines to provide relief from specific symptoms.

2. Topical Anti-viral Creams

Topical anti-viral creams are commonly used to treat skin infections caused by viruses, such as cold sores (caused by herpes simplex virus) and chickenpox (caused by varicella-zoster virus). These creams often contain active ingredients like docosanol or acyclovir, which help reduce the severity and duration of the outbreaks.

3. Herpes Symptom Relief

OTC medications for herpes provide symptomatic relief from outbreaks. These medications may include pain relievers, anti-inflammatory drugs, and creams with soothing ingredients like aloe vera or calendula.

4. Wart Removal Products

Wart removal products available over the counter typically contain ingredients like salicylic acid or lactic acid. These products help to break down the outer layer of the wart and promote healing.

5. Antiviral Supplements

Some OTC antiviral supplements claim to boost the immune system and help fight off viral infections. However, the effectiveness of these supplements is still debated, and it is important to consult with a healthcare professional before using them.


Over-the-counter anti-viral drugs offer a convenient and accessible solution for managing viral infections. However, it is essential to read and follow the instructions carefully, as well as consult a healthcare professional if symptoms persist or worsen. While OTC options can be helpful for minor viral infections, it is crucial to seek medical attention for more severe or persistent illnesses.

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3. Comparison of Aldara with other topical treatments for genital warts

When it comes to treating genital warts, Aldara is just one of the many options available. Here, we will compare Aldara with other topical treatments commonly used for genital warts to help you make an informed decision.

3.1 Podofilox

Podofilox, also known as Condylox, is another topical treatment option for genital warts. It works by preventing cell growth in the warts, leading to their eventual destruction. The main advantage of Podofilox is its faster time to complete clearance, with many patients seeing improvements within one to four weeks of treatment.
However, Podofilox is not suitable for everyone. It may cause severe skin irritation and is not recommended for use on internal warts or during pregnancy. It is also not as effective as Aldara for treating larger warts or warts that have spread to a larger area.

3.2 Imiquimod (Beselna)

Imiquimod, marketed as Beselna, is the active ingredient in Aldara. Both Aldara and Beselna contain 5% imiquimod, making them very similar in terms of their mechanism of action and effectiveness.
However, the main difference between Aldara and Beselna lies in their formulation. Aldara is a cream, while Beselna is a gel. Some users may find the gel formulation more convenient and easier to apply.

3.3 Veregen

Veregen is a botanical ointment that contains a mixture of green tea extracts. It is used for the treatment of external genital and perianal warts. Veregen works by activating the body’s immune response to fight against the virus causing the warts.
Compared to Aldara, Veregen has been found to have a lower clearance rate and may require longer treatment duration. However, Veregen is generally well-tolerated and may be a suitable option for individuals who prefer a botanical-based treatment.

3.4 Trichloroacetic Acid (TCA)

Trichloroacetic acid is a chemical solution that is often used to treat genital warts. It works by destroying the warts through a controlled chemical burn. TCA is typically applied by a healthcare professional and may require multiple treatment sessions.
Although TCA can be effective in removing warts, it may result in significant skin irritation and can only be applied by a healthcare provider. It is not recommended for use on internal warts or during pregnancy.

3.5 Comparing the treatments

To help you better understand the differences between these treatments, here is a comparison table:

Treatment Main Ingredient Application Effectiveness Side Effects
Aldara Imiquimod Cream High Skin irritation, flu-like symptoms
Podofilox Podofilox Solution or gel High Severe skin irritation
Beselna Imiquimod Gel High Skin irritation, flu-like symptoms
Veregen Green tea extracts Ointment Moderate Mild skin irritation
TCA Trichloroacetic acid Chemical solution Moderate Skin burns, irritation

Please note that the effectiveness and side effects of these treatments may vary from person to person. It is important to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the most suitable treatment option for your specific condition.
In conclusion, Aldara is just one of the many topical treatments available for genital warts. Depending on the severity and location of the warts, as well as personal preferences, other options such as Podofilox, Beselna, Veregen, or TCA may be considered. It is crucial to weigh the benefits and risks of each treatment and consult with a healthcare provider for personalized advice.

4. Safety and Precautions for Using Aldara

While Aldara has proven to be effective in treating certain conditions, it is important to be aware of its potential side effects and precautions before using the medication. Here are some important safety considerations:

Pregnancy and breastfeeding:

Aldara is not recommended for use during pregnancy or while breastfeeding. Although research on the effects of Aldara during pregnancy is limited, it is advised to avoid using the medication unless absolutely necessary. If you are pregnant or planning to become pregnant, it is important to discuss the risks and benefits with your healthcare provider.

Allergic reactions:

Some individuals may be allergic to Aldara or its ingredients, resulting in allergic reactions such as itching, redness, swelling, or hives. If you experience any of these symptoms after using Aldara, it is important to seek medical attention immediately.

Autoimmune disorders:

Aldara may cause exacerbation of certain autoimmune disorders such as lupus or autoimmune hepatitis. If you have a history of any autoimmune disorders, it is vital to inform your healthcare provider before starting Aldara treatment.

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Interactions with other medications:

Aldara may interact with certain medications, including immunosuppressive drugs and other creams or ointments applied to the same area. Be sure to inform your healthcare provider about all the medications you are currently taking to avoid any potential interactions.

Skin conditions and wounds:

If you have open wounds, lesions, or other skin conditions in the area where you plan to apply Aldara, it is advisable to avoid using the medication until the area has healed. Applying Aldara to broken or damaged skin may increase the risk of side effects.

Follow the instructions:

It is important to carefully follow the instructions provided by your healthcare provider or the package insert when using Aldara. Do not use more than the recommended amount, apply it to areas not indicated, or use it for longer durations than prescribed.

Remember, these are general safety guidelines, and it is essential to consult with your healthcare provider for personalized advice and recommendations based on your specific medical history and condition.

5. The Effectiveness of Aldara in Treating Different Conditions

One of the key factors that determine the efficacy of a medication is its ability to effectively treat various conditions. Aldara, a topical cream containing imiquimod as its active ingredient, has shown to be highly effective in treating several skin conditions. Let’s take a closer look at the effectiveness of Aldara in treating different conditions:

5.1 Actinic Keratosis

Actinic keratosis is a common precancerous skin condition caused by excessive sun exposure. It is characterized by rough, scaly patches on the skin, particularly in areas exposed to the sun, such as the face, scalp, hands, and forearms.
Aldara has been proven to be effective in treating actinic keratosis. According to a study published in the Journal of Drugs in Dermatology, treatment with Aldara resulted in complete clearance of actinic keratosis lesions in 82% of patients. The cream works by stimulating the body’s immune response, leading to the destruction of abnormal skin cells.

5.2 Genital Warts

Genital warts, caused by the human papillomavirus (HPV), are a sexually transmitted infection that affects both men and women. These small, flesh-colored bumps can appear on the genital area, as well as inside the vagina or anus.
Aldara is highly effective in treating genital warts. A study conducted by the National Institutes of Health found that 50-70% of patients experienced complete clearance of external genital warts after using Aldara cream for 16 weeks. This highlights the potent antiviral properties of Aldara, which help to eliminate the HPV virus and its associated symptoms.

5.3 Basal Cell Carcinoma

Basal cell carcinoma is the most common type of skin cancer, primarily caused by prolonged sun exposure. It usually appears as a pearly, translucent bump or a pinkish patch on the skin.
Aldara has been found to be effective in treating superficial basal cell carcinomas. In a clinical trial conducted by the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology, 81% of patients treated with Aldara experienced complete clearance of their lesions within 12 weeks.

5.4 Superficial Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Superficial squamous cell carcinoma is a type of skin cancer that typically develops on sun-exposed areas, such as the face, neck, and hands. It is characterized by scaly, red or pink patches on the skin.
Aldara has demonstrated effectiveness in treating superficial squamous cell carcinoma. A study published in the British Journal of Dermatology reported that 86% of patients achieved complete clearance of their lesions after 6 to 12 weeks of treatment with Aldara.
In conclusion, Aldara has proven to be highly effective in the treatment of various skin conditions, including actinic keratosis, genital warts, basal cell carcinoma, and superficial squamous cell carcinoma. Its ability to stimulate the body’s immune response and eliminate abnormal cells makes it a valuable treatment option for patients suffering from these conditions.

6. Precautions and Contraindications for Using Aldara

Before using Aldara cream, it is essential to be aware of the precautions and contraindications associated with its use. It is crucial to consult with a healthcare professional to ensure the safe and effective use of Aldara.


  • Sensitivity or Allergies: Individuals who are allergic to imiquimod or any other ingredients in Aldara should avoid using it.
  • Pregnancy and Breastfeeding: Aldara may not be suitable for pregnant or breastfeeding individuals. It is essential to discuss the potential risks and benefits with a healthcare professional.
  • Open Wounds: Aldara should not be applied to open wounds, as it may cause irritation or other adverse effects.
  • Autoimmune Disorders: Individuals with autoimmune disorders, such as lupus or rheumatoid arthritis, should use Aldara with caution, as it may exacerbate their condition.
  • Other Skin Conditions: If you have other skin conditions or infections in the area where Aldara is intended to be applied, consult with a healthcare professional before using the medication.
  • Interactions with Other Medications: Certain medications may interact with Aldara, so it is important to inform your healthcare provider about all medications, supplements, and herbal products you are currently taking.
  • Avoiding Eye and Mucous Membrane Contact: Aldara should not come into contact with the eyes, nose, mouth, or any other mucous membranes. If accidental contact occurs, rinse thoroughly with water and seek medical attention if necessary.
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Aldara should not be used in the following cases:

  • Immunocompromised Individuals: Aldara is generally not recommended for individuals with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS or undergoing immunosuppressive therapy.
  • Diagnosed Skin Cancers: Aldara should not be used on skin areas with diagnosed invasive squamous cell carcinoma or basal cell carcinoma.

It is important to carefully follow the instructions provided by your healthcare professional and the product labeling when using Aldara. If you experience any severe or persistent side effects, discontinue use and seek medical attention.

Remember, this information does not replace professional medical advice. Consult with your healthcare provider before using Aldara or any other medications.

7. Precautions and Safety Measures When Using Aldara

Before using Aldara, it is important to take certain precautions and follow safety measures to ensure the safe and effective use of the medication. Here are some important points to consider:

Consult a Healthcare Professional

Prior to using Aldara, it is necessary to consult a healthcare professional, such as a dermatologist or other qualified medical practitioner. They can evaluate your specific condition and provide appropriate advice and guidance on how to use Aldara correctly.

It is especially important to consult a healthcare professional if you have any underlying medical conditions or are taking any other medications. They can assess the potential interactions or contraindications that may affect the use of Aldara.

Proper Application Techniques

Aldara should be applied as directed by the healthcare professional or as instructed in the package insert. It is typically applied in a thin layer to the affected skin area once daily before bedtime, and the area should be thoroughly washed and dried before each application.

It is crucial to avoid applying Aldara to healthy skin, as it may cause irritation or adverse reactions. It is recommended to use a finger cot or glove while applying the medication to prevent accidental contact with unaffected areas.

Duration of Treatment

The duration of treatment with Aldara may vary depending on the condition being treated. It is essential to follow the recommended treatment duration and not exceed the prescribed period without consulting a healthcare professional.

Aldara is typically used for a limited period, such as 2 to 4 weeks. If significant improvement is not observed within this timeframe, it is essential to consult a healthcare professional for further evaluation and advice.

Monitoring and Reporting Side Effects

While using Aldara, it is important to monitor for any potential side effects or adverse reactions. Common side effects may include redness, itching, burning, and swelling at the application site.

If any severe or persistent side effects occur, it is crucial to stop using Aldara and seek immediate medical attention. These may include severe skin reactions, allergic reactions, or signs of systemic absorption of the medication.

Use in Specific Populations

Special caution should be exercised when using Aldara in certain populations, including:

  • Pregnant or breastfeeding women: Aldara should be used with caution in these populations, and the potential benefits and risks should be weighed.
  • Children: The safety and efficacy of Aldara in children under 18 years of age have not been established, and its use should be avoided or closely monitored.
  • Immunocompromised individuals: Aldara may have different effects in individuals with weakened immune systems, and close monitoring is necessary.

It is crucial to discuss any specific concerns or questions regarding the use of Aldara in these populations with a healthcare professional.

In conclusion, while Aldara can be a beneficial medication for various dermatologic conditions, it is important to take precautions and follow safety measures to ensure its safe and effective use. Consulting a healthcare professional, using proper application techniques, following the recommended treatment duration, monitoring for side effects, and considering specific populations are all important aspects of using Aldara responsibly.