26 Jun 2015

Scabies cream linked to cancer risk

5:00 pm on 26 June 2015

A scabies cream is being withdrawn from sale because it has an ingredient linked to cancer - but the risks are low, the Health Ministry says.

Benhex includes the ingredient lindane in a low concentration of 1 percent.

In France, the International Agency for Research on Cancer has classified lindane, which has also been used extensively for insect control, as carcinogenic to humans.

The ministry's regulator of medicines, Medsafe, considers that the risks associated with the occasional use of Benhex are low.

Clinical risk manager Chris James said patients did not need to urgently dispose of any product they might have.

API Consumer Brands has stopped producing Benhex and a spokesperson said it was withdrawing the scabies cream from the market in August.

General manager Mitch Cuevas said Benhex was considered a last line of defence to treat scabies and head lice.

He said as a precaution it was being removed from the market.

"A lot of the research that has come out most recently about it being a cancer causing agent have to do with quite large exposures.

"But I think just to be on the same side both from our employees and from a public perspective it's best to just take it off the market altogether."