Ongoing shortages of scabies treatments are posing a ‘significant threat’ to public health, the British Association of Dermatologists (BAD) has warned.
Earlier this month, the Department of Health and Social Care issued a medication supply notice for permethrin 5% w/w cream, advising it was in ‘limited supply until further notice’ due to an increase in demand.
It added that a second treatment malathion liquid is also currently unavailable and crotamiton 10% cream while licensed for scabies is needed to meet demand for other conditions.
But unlicensed permethrin cream may be sourced from some manufacturers, the warning noted.
The notice also pointed out that ivermectin 3mg tablets are licensed for treatment of scabies, but are not marketed in the UK.
In a statement, BAD urged manufacturers to increase production of treatments in light of the widespread shortages, reports of which have been going on since May.
It is thought that a surge in demand for scabies treatments across Europe, supply chain issues, and increases in the cost of raw materials have all contributed to the shortage.
With permethrin and malathion unobtainable, there are no alternatives which are widely available, affordable and effective, the association said.
BAD president, Professor Mabs Chowdhury said it was not an issue that would just go away: ‘The shortage of treatments for scabies is a major public health concern. This a common condition, which is highly contagious. The ease with which it spreads highlights the urgency of maintaining an adequate supply of effective treatments.’
He added: ‘We urge manufacturers of permethrin and malathion to do everything in their power to increase production.
‘We also call on regulators, such as the MHRA, and the Government to give the necessary support to manufacturers and suppliers to enable them to rapidly resolve the issue.’
Dr Tess McPherson, President of the British Society for Paediatric and Adolescent Dermatology, added: ‘Scabies disproportionately affects the most vulnerable in society, including young people.
‘It is important to state that you do not get scabies because you are unhygienic, and we must reduce any stigma associated with having scabies so that people do seek treatments when needed. Any reduced access or availability of treatments will have a major impact.’
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: ‘We are aware of current difficulties obtaining permethrin 5% cream supply due to an increase in demand for the product.
‘Manufacturers are continuing to supply it and we are working with them to ensure that deliveries are expedited and increased where possible.
‘Scabies is not usually a serious condition but we would advise anyone who is concerned to speak to their GP or pharmacist.’
A version of this article first appeared on our sister site Pulse.