Oral terbinafine: a new antifungal agent

Ann Pharmacother. 1997 Apr;31(4):445-56. doi: 10.1177/106002809703100412.


Objective: To review the pharmacology, pharmacokinetics, efficacy, adverse effects, drug interactions, and dosage guidelines of terbinafine. Available comparative data of terbinafine and other antimycotic agents are described for understanding the potential role of terbinafine in patient care.

Data sources: A MEDLINE search restricted to English language during 1966-1996 and extensive review of journals was conducted to prepare this article. MeSH headings included allylamines, terbinafine, SF 86-327, dermatophytosis, dermatomycosis.

Data extraction: The data on pharmacokinetics, adverse effects, and drug interactions were obtained from open-label and controlled studies and case reports. Controlled single- or double-blind studies were evaluated to describe the efficacy of terbinafine in the treatment of various fungal infections.

Data synthesis: Terbinafine is the first oral antimycotic in the allylamines class: a fungicidal agent that inhibits ergosterol synthesis at the stage of squalene epoxidation. Terbinafine demonstrates excellent in vitro activity against the majority of dermatophyte species including Trichophyton rubrum, Trichophyton mentagrophytes, and Epidermophyton floccosum; less activity is seen against Dematiaceae and the filamentous fungi. It is least active against the pathogenic yeast and this correlates with the relatively poor efficacy against these organisms in vivo. High concentrations of terbinafine are achieved in keratinous tissues, the site of superficial infections, and these concentrations are maintained for up to 3 months. The clinical efficacy of terbinafine against a number of dermatophyte infections exceeds that of the current standard of therapy, griseofulvin. The efficacy of terbinafine may be as good or better than that of the azole antifungals. Additional studies are required to confirm these observations. Terbinafine demonstrates a good safety profile, and relatively few drug interactions have been identified.

Conclusions: Terbinafine is more effective than the gold standard, griseofulvin, in the treatment of tinea pedis and tinea unguinum, with considerably shorter treatment duration in the latter. It has been proven as effective as griseofulvin in the treatment of tinea capitis, tinea corporis, and tinea cruris. Terbinafine does not appear to offer any advantage in the treatment of nondermatophyte infections; its utility in the treatment of systemic infections has yet to be established. Depending on individual institutional costs, terbinafine may be a front-line drug for some superficial infections responding poorly to the current standard of therapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Antifungal Agents / pharmacokinetics
  • Antifungal Agents / pharmacology
  • Antifungal Agents / therapeutic use*
  • Drug Interactions
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacokinetics
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / pharmacology
  • Enzyme Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Humans
  • Naphthalenes / pharmacokinetics
  • Naphthalenes / pharmacology
  • Naphthalenes / therapeutic use*
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Terbinafine
  • Tinea / drug therapy*


  • Antifungal Agents
  • Enzyme Inhibitors
  • Naphthalenes
  • Terbinafine