Background: There are many different types of pediculicides available OTC in Australia. In this study we compare the efficacy and safety of three topical pediculicides: a pediculicide containing melaleuca oil (tea tree oil) and lavender oil (TTO/LO); a head lice "suffocation" product; and a product containing pyrethrins and piperonyl butoxide (P/PB).
Method: This study was a randomised, assessor-blind, comparative, parallel study of 123 subjects with live head lice. The head lice products were applied according to the manufacturer's instructions (the TTO/LO product and the "suffocation" product were applied three times at weekly intervals according to manufacturers instructions (on Day 0, Day 7 and Day 14) and the P/PB product was applied twice according to manufacturers instructions (on Day 0 and Day 7)). The presence or absence of live lice one day following the last treatment was determined.
Results: The percentage of subjects who were louse-free one day after the last treatment with the product containing tea tree oil and lavender oil (41/42; 97.6%) and the head lice "suffocation" product (40/41, 97.6%) was significantly higher compared to the percentage of subjects who were louse-free one day after the last treatment with the product containing pyrethrins and piperonyl butoxide (10/40, 25.0%; adj. p < 0.0001).
Conclusion: The high efficacy of the TTO/LO product and the head lice "suffocation" product offers an alternative to the pyrethrins-based product.
Trial registration: The study was entered into the Australian/New Zealand Clinical Trial Registry, ACTRN12610000179033.