§ Mr. Flynn
To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) what guidelines his Department issues to schools concerning the prevention and detection of head lice amongst pupils; and if he will make a statement; 
(2) how many children contracted head lice in each of the last three years for which figures are available. 
§ Ms Jowell
In April 1996, the Department of Health launched a poster and leaflet campaign—"The Prevention and Treatment of Head Lice"—which advises families and teachers on the options for dealing with this problem. So far, over 1 million copies of the leaflet have been sent to parents, teachers and health professionals. Further guidance was included in the Department's publication, "Child Health in the Community: A Guide to Good Practice" issued in September 1996. National figures on the incidence of head louse infestation are not collected because not all cases are detected. However, the number of prescriptions for lotions to treat infestation quadrupled between 1991 and 1996 from 583,000 to 2,161,000.
§ Ms Jowell
Malathion is a licensed human medicinal product which has been subject to the usual processes of assessment of safety, quality and efficacy. As for all medicines marketed in the United Kingdom, its safety has been monitored continuously after marketing. No serious toxicity has been identified in normal conditions.
§ Ms Jowell
The Committee on Safety of Medicines has received 23 suspected adverse reactions reports associated with malathion head louse treatment via the Yellow Card scheme. Of these, 19 occurred in children. However, a report does not necessarily mean that the reaction was caused by the medicine.
§ Mr. Milburn
Central guidelines have not been issued concerning the sale of Malathion. Health authorities issue guidelines on the rotational policies for treatment of head lice and these may include advice on use of Malathion.
In November 1995, the Chief Medical, Pharmaceutical and Nursing Officers wrote a joint letter to health professionals, including pharmacists, concerning the restriction for human medicinal use by limiting Carbaryl to prescription only use. Copies of this letter have been placed in the Library. This followed a review of information by the Committee on Carcinogenicity and advice from the Advisory Committee on Pesticides and the Committee of the Safety of Medicines. The insecticide Carbaryl is an active ingredient in a number of shampoos and lotions used to treat headlice.
§ Ms Jowell
The first medicinal product for human use for a shampoo containing permethrin was granted a marketing authorisation in November 1988. This product is indicated for the treatment of head lice. Before any medicinal product can be granted a marketing authorisation, applicants must submit data which demonstrates the efficacy of their product for the indications claimed. The data are fully assessed and scrutinised by experienced clinicians at the Medicines Control Agency. Additionally, all products containing an active ingredient not previously authorised in a medicinal product are further considered by the Committee on Safety of Medicines (CSM). The CSM considered the application and the efficacy of permethrin in 1988. A marketing authorisation can be issued only if the applicant has satisfactorily proved the efficacy of the product to the satisfaction of the Licensing Authority.