Healthcare: At a Glance - Anti-lice treatments go back to school

What's the problem?

Wingless insects, about 2mm long, the female of which lays six eggs a day. And the next couple of months are an important time of year for these six-legged creatures.

Sounds more like natural history than healthcare

It's very much a healthcare issue.

The insects in question are better known as head lice (nits are their eggs) - and most children went back to school this week. Which means the manufacturers of lotion, cream rinse and liquid lice treatments are in a state of readiness.

Which brands are involved?

Three of the leading treatments (called insecticides) available over-the-counter are GlaxoSmithKline's Quellada (also known as melathion), Chefaro UK's Lyclear (permethrin) and SSL International's Full Marks (phenothrin).

What sort of PR is planned - are comms execs dressing up as nits to educate pupils?

Insect role-play appears to be disappointingly absent from PR campaigns this autumn. TV ads for Full Marks have been running since summer in slots on GMTV, targeting mums getting their kids ready to go back to school.

SSL International head of comms is Jan Young and Full Marks brand manager is Jackie Costello. Myriad PR has the account for Full Marks (along with other SSL brands such as Durex) and is waiting for the ad campaign to finish before assessing what PR follow-up should be forthcoming.

And the other two?

Chefaro's Lyclear brand manager Julie Ray says PR activity may start before the end of 2005. Healthcare professionals such as GPs, practice nurses and pharmacists, and education specialists such as head teachers and parent-teacher associations, are likely to be the focus of any activity.

Ray says the brand has not been a PR priority for her or agency Munro & Forster Communications this year. For GSK, meanwhile, no agency currently works on Quellada.

So brands will be putting their heads together with schools?

Yes, very good. Actually, researchers believe that girls are more prone to lice than boys, possibly because they tend to physically put their heads together when working in close proximity to each other.

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