Chains, pharmacists stock up for lice season; infestations rise

Chains, pharmacists stock up for lice season; infestations rise – Inside Pharmacy

Chains, pharmacists stock up for lice season; infestations rise

Back-to-school time ushers children into drug stores looking for notebooks, lunchboxes and pencil cases, but the season also sends bewildered parents to the pharmacist looking for lice treatment products for their school-age children.

It’s no doubt that the National Pediculosis Association (NPA) in Newton, Mass., deemed the month of September Lice Prevention Month. There are an estimated six to 12 million cases of lice infestation a year in the United States, children aged one to 12 making up 72 percent of these cases. Consumers spent approximately $38 to $40 million last year on pesticidal shampoos, creams and lotions.

Although no public health group tracks the amount of people infected by lice, the NPA believes the number of infestations is on the rise.

Deborah Altschuler, executive director and co-founder of NPA, told Drug Store News/Inside Pharmacy that “lice are a part of raising children today.”

“More and more children are being brought together by day care facilities because of the growing population of working women,” she said, which leads to a greater chance of children spreading lice.

Altschuler added that manufacturers continue to churn out new products in this business – reformulations and new approaches that she feels gives credence to her belief that the pediculicide industry is growing.

The association works with pharmacies in September to promote prevention of head lice. Last year, Altschuler said drug chains such as Harco, Longs, Hook, CVS, Revco, Rite Aid, and SupeRx in Cincinnati put up banners in their pharmacy departments. This year, the association is making available to drug chains lice prevention coloring books. They’ll retail for 25 cents, and were developed for children from kindergarden through the third grade to teach them basic information on lice treatment and prevention.

Since physicians often recommend OTC lice preparations to their patients, pharmacists are in the best position to provide the link between doctors and their patients. At Medicap Pharmacies, a 69-store franchise operation based in Des Moines, Iowa, the pediculicide business relies on store owners stocking their own departments.

John Forbes, R.Ph. and owner of a Medicap Pharmacy in suburban Urbandale, Iowa, allocates 2 feet to only three OTC pediculicide products he stocks in front of his pharmacy counter.

“We sell 50 percent of our inventory in the two-month period of September and October,” he said. He stocks Triple X, Rid and Tisit, because area doctors most often suggest these brands to patients. “When people are not acting on a doctor’s advice, I’ll alway recommend Tisit, because I can get a larger gross margin on it,” he said, adding that this brand retails for one dollar less than the competing brands.

Forbes said some customers are very embarrassed when they ask him for these products, and said, “you can tell they just want to get the product and get out.” This is a common attitude, even though it is known that uncleanliness and poverty are not associated with head lice. At his store, Forbes estimated 20 percent of the people treated for lice return for an additional OTC or prescription bottle of shampoo for themselves or another family member.

So, for those who are concerned about the method of treatment, Forbes takes time out from filling prescriptions to counsel them on the importance of washing all sheets and clothes in hot water, and of vacuuming mattresses, rugs and furniture. “Or, I’ll hand them a pamphlet about treating lice if they don’t want to listen to my speech,” he said.

On the prescription side, this Medicap Pharmacy stocks Kwell and Nix, and Forbes said Nix is selling well. Kwell Shampoo, which has lindane as its active ingredient (which at one time created some controversy surrounding its potential toxicity), is also enjoying brisk sales here, Forbes said.

A buyer for a West Coast chain reported Rid as the OTC category leader in the stores’ usual section of eight to 10 facings. A-200, R&C and Pronto are also major players in this category. This buyer said “this category is not limited, and we try to stock a wider variety of product.” He said communication between doctors and pharmacists is crucial, and this chain often tailors their pediculicide mix to area doctors’ recommendations.

Also on a local level, the chain works with school health officials to keep informed on possible outbreaks. “The pharmacists keep in contact with school nurses, especially in September, since this is a seasonal category. During the summer, children are exposed to many things which they take back to school with them. It’s very easy for diseases to spread among a class of 30 kids,” he said.

At Happy Harry’s, a 22-store chain headquarted in Newark, Del., Pat Triboletti, vp-merchandising, confirmed that head lice “spreads like wildfire” when kids return to school from summer vacations. “Once it hits, it wipes out our OTC inventory. It’s a real peak-and-valley category,” he said.

Happy Harry’s found success merchandising the OTC pediculicides in the shampoo aisle, in a “specialty shampoo section” along with the tarbased brands. “We’ve tried displaying it in several different areas, like in the back of the store near the pharmacy section,” said Triboletti, but found that although the topic of head lice has “come out of the closet in recent years,” people are still reluctant to ask for these products.

The chain stocks six SKUs of pediculicide creams, lotions, and shampoos in a 1-foot section, and Triboletti said A-200 and Rid are fast movers during September. “There is a bit of product proliferation here,” he said, noting that generic products are continually marketed for this category.

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