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FDA Approval of Benzyl Alcohol Lotion for Treatment of Head Lice

April 29, 2009

FDA Approval of Benzyl Alcohol Lotion for Treatment of Head Lice

  1. Robin Drucker, MD

Benzyl alcohol lotion might be an easier and safer alternative to over-the-counter pediculocides.

  1. Robin Drucker, MD

The FDA recently approved Benzyl Alcohol Lotion, 5%, as a new prescription treatment for head lice in patients aged 6 months and older. In two studies of 628 people with active head lice, patients received two 10-minute treatments of benzyl alcohol lotion or topical placebo 1 week apart. Seventy-five percent of the patients who received benzyl alcohol lotion were lice free 2 weeks after the second treatment. The medication is known to cause irritation to the skin, scalp, and eyes and also numbness to the sites to which it is applied. More-serious side effects such as respiratory distress, seizure, coma, and death can occur in premature infants.

Comment

Because lice often are resistant to over-the-counter pediculocides such as permethrin and pyrethrin, parents often use the more toxic prescription medications containing lindane and malathion. The benzyl alcohol lotion needs to be applied twice but might prove to be an easier and safer alternative. No matter what treatment is used to eliminate live lice, careful combing and removal of all nits from the hair as well as cleaning of other articles (i.e., hair accessories, towels, bedding, and clothing) are necessary to prevent reinfestation.

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