Magazine article Drug Topics

Pharmacists: Beware of Nonpediculicides for Lice

Magazine article Drug Topics

Pharmacists: Beware of Nonpediculicides for Lice

Article excerpt


The dog days of summer have arrived: Ants are marching, crickets are singing, and head lice are eagerly awaiting the start of the school year in September. The question pharmacists must answer is which types of over-the-counter head lice treatments will they recommend-pediculicide or non-- pediculicide remedies?

Reports of pediculicide-resistant lice over the past several years have spawned a vast market for "all-- natural" head lice treatments. Products containing everything from shikakai (Acacia concinna, an Asian herb) to eucalyptus oil claim to aid in the eradication of head lice. In fact, Joan Sawyer, the "Lice Lady" for, alleges that her head lice treatment product, the Olive Oil Protocol, is "the only thing that consistently eliminates an entire infestation [of head lice]."

Richard J. Pollack, Ph.D., public entomologist at the Harvard School of Public Health, directly refutes that assertion. "I remain unconvinced regarding the utility and basis for the olive oil remedy. Any of the OTC or prescription pediculicides can be fully effective in eliminating populations of head lice susceptible to the active ingredient within the product," he said.

Other products purported to remove head lice completely without using pediculicides include the enzyme-based product Not Nice To Lice, which uses enzymes to devour the critters. The product is claimed to be completely biodegradable upon application, essentially harmless to people, totally effective against head lice and their nits, and to not induce resistant lice.

Pollack, however, is skeptical. "I remain unconvinced of the efficacy of [Not Nice To Lice] and related products," he commented. "I would find it hard to recommend such a product."

Herbal lice treatments also are claimed to be safe and effective, but they have yet to be scientifically tested. "The so-called herbal remedies are based on testimonials, which carry very little weight," said Pollack. "I'm not aware of any objective data that are convincing. I'm not saying [these products] don't work, I'm just saying there is no indication that they do work."

This school season pharmacists and consumers will see a few new products launched in the ongoing battle against lice:

* Acu-Life Lice Wash Laundry Detergent, developed by Health Enterprises Inc., North Attleboro, Mass., is a "nontoxic" detergent that kills lice in bedding and clothing. The detergent, containing Tea Tree Oil as the active ingredient, requires 2 oz. …

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