Head lice products make louse-busting easier

August 10, 2009

The kids are going back to school, and opportunities for exposure to head lice abound. In the U.S., an estimated 6 million to 12 million infestations occur each year among children 3 to 11 years old. This year, some new products offer relief.

Key Points

With school back in session, head lice will once again find fertile territory in which to range and multiply during peak season. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), an estimated 6 million to 12 million infestations occur each year in the United States among children 3 to 11 years of age. To attack this year's lice crop, several new weapons, both prescription and OTC, have been introduced.

What's new in Rx

The FDA has approved Sciele's Ulesfia Lotion (benzyl alcohol 5%), the first prescription medication that kills head lice by asphyxiation without neurotoxic side effects. Launched in July 2009, Ulesfia is supplied in individual 8-oz bottles. According to a company representative, "The product works through a physical mechanism of action, so treatment is volume-sensitive. Patients will average four to six bottles per prescription, so it is important to consider this when ordering inventory." The lotion is approved for use in patients 6 months of age and older. The FDA noted that common side effects include irritations of the skin, scalp, and eyes, and numbness at the site of application.

Both generic Malathion and the branded Ovide kill adult lice and their eggs (nits), and may be more effective against lice that are resistant to OTC products, according to an Ovide information sheet.

What's new in OTC

Tec has introduced Licefreee! Spray to extend the 11-year-old product line. One 6-oz bottle can treat several cases of head-lice infestation, and the homeopathic solution is effective against bothlice and eggs. The package includes a metal comb to remove dead lice.

Health Enterprises has refreshed its Lice Cure System packaging, reportedly to improve its on-shelf presence and better communicate the value of the product. The company is also promoting Lice Cure's recent Good Housekeeping recommendation as a pesticide-free, safe, and effective lice-removal product. The system includes a 2-oz bottle of Lice Cure, which is derived from Australian tea tree oil, along with a lice-removal comb, protective hair cap, 5x magnifier, tweezers, and cleaning brush.

Fairy Tales Hair Care for Children has introduced a new 32-oz bottle of its RosemaryRepel Conditioner. The Rosemary Repel line fared well in a recent independent in vitro efficacy study performed by the nonprofit Lice Solutions Resource Network. In the study, Rosemary Repel Leave-in Spray was highly effective in warding off live lice from a treated hair sample. Other Rosemary Repel products – gel, conditioner, and shampoo – achieved similar results when combined with the spray. Risa Barash, Fairy Tales executive director, told Drug Topics, "It's the only study done on lice prevention and proves that herbs can actually repel lice, which people have been saying for years." Fairy Tales Hair Care products include rosemary, citronella, lavender, and tea tree extracts.

Future possibilities

Piedmont is still in Phase III trials with Resultz, having been asked for additional studies. Already marketed in Canada and the U.K., Resultz works by dissolving the louse's waxy exoskeleton, leading to the bug's dehydration and eventual death.

Dana K. Cassell, a frequent contributor to Drug Topics, lives in North Stratford, New Hampshire.