Sep 19, 2023
UK shortage of scabies medications is a snowballing public health issue, dermatologists warn
The British Association of Dermatologists (BAD) is urging manufacturers of treatments for scabies to increase production in the face of widespread shortages across the UK. Given the highly contagious nature of the condition, the BAD believes that these shortages pose a significant threat to public health.
On the 8th of September, the Department of Health and Social Care issued a medicine supply notification for permethrin 5% w/w cream indicating the limited supply of this medication and the unavailability of alternative treatment malathion liquid. These medications are the two main options for treating scabies in the UK, with no alternatives which are widely available, affordable, and effective. Reports of shortages date back as far as May.
Professor Mabs Chowdhury, President of the British Association of Dermatologists (BAD), expressed the association’s concerns, stating:
“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. This is not an issue which will just go away.
“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, agreed:
“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.”
It is believed 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.
Scabies is a highly contagious and intensely itchy skin condition caused by the Sarcoptes scabiei mite. It can affect people of all ages and is easily spread by skin-to-skin contact. Outbreaks are common in care homes and group living facilities, and in all cases prompt treatment of those affected and relevant contacts is necessary to prevent the mites from spreading.
Notes to Editors