A record amount of “scabies medicine” has been sold in recent years. Dermatologists believe it should be cheaper to get rid of the bothersome scabies.
The Norwegian Medicines Agency is aware that there are complaints about the price of being free of scabies and says that there are good arguments that society should cover the costs of the scabies creams.
Even with strict corona measures in large parts of 2021, more “scabies medicine” is being bought now than before the pandemic, VG has previously reported. This may indicate more infection. Most people infected with scabies are between 15 and 29 years old, according to the National Institute of Public Health.
– The trickiest thing was that everyone had to buy scab ointment and it was a pig, says Emilie Hauan Solvang (24).
She experienced scabies infection in a collective when she was studying in Trondheim.
Think it should have been cheaper
Dermatologists Emilia Hugdahl and Eli Synnøve Lilleskog at Bryggen Dermatology Center in Bergen believe it should have been cheaper to get rid of scabies and that the state should also reimburse Tenutex, a cream used against scabies.
They have experienced that many students have visited their clinic this autumn. Now it is only the refund on the tablets against scabies, which is given on prescription. The creams are bought without a prescription and are the first step in the treatment.
VG has previously written about concerns about the rigid prices of medicines for scabies. A family has said that they have spent almost 20,000 kroner in the attempt to get rid of the scabies.
Scabies in the collective
Solvang in Trondheim had to undergo a scabies treatment just before the corona pandemic.
– I was a student and lived with a gang in a collective, says Emilie Hauan Solvang.
One day she was told that someone around her had scabies. She says that it was embarrassing for the person to tell them that they should undergo a treatment to ensure that they were not infected with scabies.
– The shame was palpable. The person did not think it was easy to tell us. The whole collective took the scabies cream at the same time and it became a social thing.
The treatment to get rid of scabies is extensive. Scabies cream should be applied all over the body and put on for several hours, clothes and bedding should be washed at 60 degrees or frozen. And the process should be repeated after a week.
– Some complaints about price
Several VGs have spoken to think the price of the creams that cure scabies is high. It is the drug companies themselves who decide the price of over-the-counter drugs.
– The increase in infection and the large costs of getting rid of scabies is probably due to the fact that some patients and their close contacts are not treated for the scabies well enough and quickly enough at the first attempt, says Ulrike Jüse in the Norwegian Medicines Agency to VG.
The Norwegian Medicines Agency has the opportunity to regulate the price of medicines if it is much higher than in other European countries.
Jüse says that this is not relevant for the scabies creams, as the price is not higher in Norway.
– We know that there are a number of complaints about price. Some people probably experience that the treatment to become scabies-free can be very expensive, but I think it is because some have to go through several rounds of cream treatment because they experience relapse due to misuse or because they are re-infected by close contacts.
Responds to refund claims
Doctors Hugdahl and Lilleskog Bergen think it should have been cheaper.
– Now we have a situation where most dermatologists believe that the Tenutex cream is the best treatment, but then it is only the reimbursement on the tablets for scabies. To be able to apply for reimbursement on Tenutex, the patient must have already tried both Nix cream, Scatol tablets and benzyl benzoate liniment without effect. They must therefore first have spent money on a treatment dermatologists no longer recommend. That’s problematic.
They believe the authorities have an extra responsibility with infectious disease such as scabies and that price should have no bearing on treatment.
– It was all hell
Helene Tjellaug (19) was infected during the Russian era this year, at the same time as she lived at home. She had to go through several cures before she got rid of the scabies, and it became expensive.
– It was all hell, she says to VG.
The 19-year-old first discovered the scabies when she got small water blister-like bumps on her fingers and hands.
– They just became more and more and appeared in several places on my body, such as on the elbows, ankles and around the waist. The pimples itched extremely.
Eventually, she consulted a doctor who asked her to “keep an eye on the pimples for a few weeks to come.” After others in the family also got similar pimples that itched, they decided to buy a scabies cure.
The 19-year-old says she was afraid of infecting others and that all of her clothes, bedding and sofa covers were frozen and boiled. The scabies cream was applied from head to toe.
– In the beginning, I denied that it was scabies, because I had heard that scabies only infected through prolonged physical contact and a rare time via borrowing clothes, she says and adds:
– I was the one in the family who was hardest hit, and did not get rid of the scabies after the first cure. I had to undergo two full cream cures (each consisting of two rounds of lubricating the body from head to toe with a whole tube of scabies cream) and two tablet cures, because the scabies would not go away so easily.
– How much did it cost?
– Each cure with scabies cream cost around NOK 500 and each cure with scabies tablets cost around NOK 1,000. Since I was the hardest hit in my family and had to undergo the most cures, I felt real guilt towards mom and dad who had to pay for all this. I was ashamed in a way and felt like a burden.
The 19-year-old has got rid of the scabies now, but says that the itching lasted for almost two months after the end of treatment. She says that it is embarrassing to tell friends about scabies
– I feel scabies is, somewhat similar to flat lice, associated with adultery and prostitution. I did not want to be convicted of getting scabies, because neither I nor very many others were aware that scabies could be transmitted so easily.
– Follow the development
This year it has arrived updated supervisors for the treatment of scabies.
– Is the Norwegian Medicines Agency considering any new solutions to curb the infection?
– We follow the development together with FHI. Eventually, we must consider the information measures
and the new treatment guides are effective enough. There are good arguments that society should too
cover the costs of the cream treatment, says Ulrike Jüse.
This can be done by giving scabies the status of a generally contagious infectious disease, such as chlamydia and measles. Then the entire course of treatment will be free for patients and close contacts.
– It will probably also lead to the infected getting started with the cream treatment faster. Unfortunately, the Norwegian Medicines Agency cannot make such a decision alone, says Jüse.
More feel taboo
Horst Bentele in FHI thinks it is a pity that more people experience it as taboo and ashamed to say that they are infected.
– I think we could have avoided a lot of infection if more people came forward and told about it.
He says that scabies used to be associated with impurity and poverty.
– That time is over. Everyone can have it. It should be common to be able to talk about it now.