Oral Lice Medicine Works as Lotion

Lice treatment with ivermectin works for about 95 percent of users

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Head lice can be an icky problem for families to deal with. Plus, lice and their eggs are becoming more resistant to typical treatments.

But a single dose of lotion containing ivermectin gets rid of the bugs in 95 percent of users compared to the typical topical treatments, new research has found.

"Avoid sharing hats with other people."

Ivermectin, more commonly known as Stromectol, has usually been taken as an oral lice treatment. Previous studies found that ivermectin completely got rid of lice in children after one dose.

A second dose killed off the nits, or lice eggs, and the children continued to be free of live nits after two weeks.

"...[I]vermectin is a treatment option when permethrin or pyrethrins have failed or when there is a desire to reduce the need for nit combing and increase the probability of success with a single application," the authors wrote in their report.

The aim of the study, led by David Pariser, MD, professor in the Department of Dermatology at Eastern Virginia Medical School, was to see how many patients who intended to use the lotion were lice-free after one single treatment.

The study included 765 patients with three or more live lice in their hair or on their scalp. Patients were six months of age or older from across the US.

They were randomly divided into one of two groups, one which received the lice treatment lotion with 0.5 percent ivermectin. The second group received another topical treatment for comparison to the ivermectin treatment.

On the first day, both groups massaged the treatments to dry hair, let it sit for 10 minutes and rinsed. They did not comb for nits, or lice eggs, as commonly done in other lice treatments.

Neither the researchers nor the participants knew who received which lice medication. The severity of the lice infestation in each group was about the same.

After the treatments were complete, researchers found that patients who received ivermectin were about 95 percent louse-free on the second day, compared to about 31 percent in those with the other medication.

About 89 percent of the first group was still lice-free by day 8, compared to a little more than 26 percent in the second.

Two weeks after the treatment, about 79 percent of participants in the first group were still lice-free. At the same time, only 22 percent from the second group had no lice. The authors found no safety concerns or side effects with the treatment.

"Topical ivermectin showed high efficacy within 24 hours, with most treated patients remaining louse-free through the final assessment 2 weeks after a single treatment, without the need for nit combing," the authors wrote in their report.

The authors worked for and received consulting fees from Sanofi Pasteur and Topaz Pharmaceuticals. They declare no other potential conflicts of interest. The study was published online November 1 in the New England Journal of Medicine.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 8, 2012
Last Updated:
December 31, 2013