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Comparative efficacy and safety of oral ivermectin, topical permethrin, and its combination in the treatment of scabies: a systematic literature review

Rowena F. Genuino, MD, FPDS, Maria Christina Filomena R. Batac, MD, FPDS, Francis R. Capule, RPh, MS, PhD, Kimberly Anne G. Ednalino, MD, Fernando B. Garcia, Jr., PhD, Mary Ann J. Ladia, PhD, Malaya P. Santos, MD, FPDS, Ailyn M. Yabes, PhD, Maria Stephanie Fay S. Cagayan, MD, FPOGS, PhD



Oral ivermectin is an approved first-line option to topical permethrin in Europe and Japan for the treatment of classic scabies, while combination oral ivermectin and topical permethrin is used in clinical practice for extensive or recurrent cases. There is unclear evidence on comparative efficacy and safety.



To review the evidence on efficacy and safety of oral ivermectin versus topical permethrin or its combination in the treatment of classic scabies.



We searched PubMed from January 1, 2016 up to August 7, 2021 for systematic reviews that included RCTs comparing oral ivermectin versus topical permethrin or its combination in the clinical treatment of scabies. We described the characteristics of included studies, assessed reporting quality, and summarized results and conclusion.


We included five systematic reviews. Permethrin did not differ from oral ivermectin in cure rate at the 3 to 6-week time point but had an earlier cure at 1–2 weeks. Adverse effects did not significantly differ and were few, mild, and transient with both treatments. The evidence ranged widely from low to high certainty and mainly came from three moderate-to-high quality systematic reviews. Combination oral ivermectin and topical permethrin was ranked higher in efficacy but lower in safety compared to either drug alone in one moderate validity network meta-analysis.


There is varying certainty of evidence suggesting comparable effi cacy and safety of oral ivermectin versus topical permethrin. Limited evidence suggest higher efficacy and lower safety of combination oral ivermectin and topical permethrin compared to either drug alone. An updated systematic review and network meta-analysis is warranted.


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Comparative efficacy and safety of oral ivermectin, topical permethrin, and its combination in the treatment of scabies: a systematic literature review