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Scabies outbreak in UK: Drug shortages contributing to rise in cases, confirm dermatologists

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Permethrin and malathion liquid –  two main topical treatments for scabies – are currently in limited supply

The British Association of Dermatologists (BAD) has raised concerned about rising cases of scabies in the UK, and suggested that the current shortage of medicines is contributing to the outbreak.

Usually, this skin condition is treated using topical creams or oral medication in more severe cases, but shortage of scabies drugs has been reported since May 2023.

Both permethrin 5% cream and malathion liquid, which are two main topical treatments for scabies, are in limited supply in the U.K.

Paula Geanau, a spokesperson for BAD, told Fox News Digital on Friday (19 January) that the rate of scabies is double the seasonal average, with three cases per 100,000 of the population recorded at the end of November by the Royal College of GPs.

Although anyone can get scabies, incidences are more common in group living facilities, such as care homes and student accommodations, as it spreads via skin-to-skin contact, she said.

In a press release issued in September 2023, the association warned that shortages of the medications “pose a significant threat to public health” and urged manufacturers to increase their production.

Professor Mabs Chowdhury, president of BAD, also called on regulators, such as the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) and the government to support manufacturers and suppliers in resolving the issue.

Scabies is an itchy skin rash caused by a tiny, eight-legged mite called Sarcoptes scabiei that burrows into the skin and lay eggs.

It is highly contagious, and spreads quickly through skin contact, bedding, or clothing in households, schools or nursing homes.

The infection can cause skin sores, and lead to serious complications like septicaemia (a bloodstream infection), heart disease and kidney problems, according to World Health Organisation (WHO).

Those living in close quarters without access to routine clothes washers and dryers are most vulnerable to contracting the disease, Dr. Susan Massick, a board-certified dermatologist at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center told the news portal.

She advises people to avoid direct contact or sharing of clothing, bedding and close quarters with those infected to prevent contracting the disease.

According to Geanau, BAD was informed that the supply of permethrin and malathion will increase early this year.

While ivermectin 3mg tablets are approved for the treatment of scabies, they are not marketed in the UK, and can only be sourced from special-order manufacturers.

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