A Topical Medication for Nail Fungus That Actually Works?

Dr. Sharon Orrange
Dr. Orrange is an Associate Professor of Clinical Medicine in the Division of Geriatric, Hospitalist and General Internal Medicine at the Keck School of Medicine of USC.
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Ugh, nail fungus. If you are like most people, you’d rather use a topical medication (a cream, ointment, or nail solution) instead of a pill to treat it. Antifungal pills do work, but they carry the risk of liver damage and monitoring is necessary when taking them. Current topical options are sort of dismal right now: Penlac (ciclopirox) nail solution is available with a prescription, and over the counter antifungal creams just don’t really work for nail fungus. Now it looks like there is something that does.

Tavaborole, awaiting final FDA approval, will be used for treating nail fungus (onychomycosis). It is a solution that you apply (one or two drops) daily to the nail. It has a unique mechanism of action and better nail penetration than topical options we have now.

Tavaborole has been shown to work pretty well in premarketing studies, so it’s a start. Twenty six percent of folks who used a drop or two daily on their nail achieved a “completely clear” or “almost clear” nail at 180 days. Remember too that even the best oral antifungals achieve a cure rate about half the time. Of course more studies are ongoing but keep your eye out for this less toxic option for treating your nail fungus.

Dr O.

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