Can I still get SunSense sunscreen on prescription?
When we think about prescription drugs, sunscreen is probably not the first thing that comes to mind. For some people, though, sunscreen is not just something to have sitting in the beach bag to be brought out on sunny days; it is a year-round necessity.
What is photosensitivity?
The term ‘photo’ comes from the Greek word, phos, meaning light. So photosensitivity refers to a sensitivity to light. This is not a skin condition in itself but is a characteristic of a large number of different disorders. Usually, this is caused by an abnormal reaction between sunlight and a chromophore, a molecule in the skin that undergoes some change when exposed to a particular kind of light. Depending on the specific condition, this could cause a rash, burning, swelling or, in some conditions, exacerbate existing symptoms. Obviously, regular sunscreen use is imperative to help manage these conditions and maintain quality of life. This is where prescription sunscreen comes in.
What is the Drug Tariff
The Drug Tariff is a monthly document produced by the NHS Prescription Services on behalf of the Department of Health and Social Care. It defines a limited list of drugs and medical devices that can be prescribed by doctors and nurses using NHS prescriptions, as well as listing the criteria for which they should be used. It also defines the terms of reimbursement and reimbursement prices for pharmacy.
Recently, the Drug Tariff was updated with regard to sunscreens to better clarify and expand which conditions are eligible.
Which conditions are eligible?[1–4]
The updated Drug Tariff states that sunscreen can be prescribed for photosensitivity caused by genetic disorders, severe photodermatoses, chronic diseases and medical therapies/procedures. Some examples are listed below.
Primary photodermatoses, including:
- Polymorphic light eruption
- Actinic prurigo
- Chronic actinic dermatitis
- Solar urticaria
Metabolic photodermatoses (porphyrias), including:
- Porphyria cutanea tarda
- Erythropoeitic protoporphyria
- Variegate porphyria
- Erythropoeitic porphyria (Gunther disease)
Serious photoexacerbated dermatoses, including:
- Lupus erythematosus
Genetic disorders, including:
- Xeroderma pigmentosum
- Blood syndrome
- Rothmund Thomson syndrome
- Cockayne syndrome
Other situations, including:
- Cases of drug-induced photosensitivity (if a suitable alternative is not available)
- Photocontact allergic reactions
- Following medical therapies/procedures
Your healthcare professional will be familiar with your condition, symptoms and triggers, and can determine whether the use of sunscreen is imperative to the management strategy. While the Drug Tariff only specifies a limited number of conditions as being eligible, the list is not exhaustive and NHS dermatology specialists can give consideration to other high-risk patients. You should discuss this with your healthcare professional.
Which conditions are not eligible?
Exposure to UV radiation has been shown to cause many harmful effects, from photoageing to skin cancer, so sun protection is something we should all take seriously, and regular sunscreen use is an important part of that. However, prescription sunscreen under the NHS is designed to ease the cost burden on people for whom sun protection is not just a recommendation, but a daily necessity.
Some skin conditions, like eczema, psoriasis and rosacea, may be exacerbated by sunlight but are not included in the definition set out in the Drug Tariff. In serious cases, though, GPs may still be able to provide a prescription, so you should always discuss treatment options with your GP.
There are some medications that can cause photosensitivity as a side-effect. If you experience these side-effects as a result of a medication you are taking, your doctor may prescribe sunscreen, assuming there is no suitable alternative. However, a sunscreen prescription should not be given as a preventative measure or ‘just in case’.
How SunSense Ultra can help
The Drug Tariff lists only a small selection of sunscreens available for prescription. Among them is SunSense Ultra, which not only provides very high, broad-spectrum protection, with an SPF of 50+ and a 5-star UVA rating, but is a light, smooth lotion that’s easy to apply and is readily absorbed. It also contains moisturising Vitamin B3 to help improve skin tone and texture as well as replenish dry skin.
SunSense Ultra is designed for everyday use, making it an ideal choice for people with photosensitivity conditions.
1. Oakley A. Photosensitivity [Internet]. DermNet NZ2016 [cited 2020 Apr 14];Available from: https://www.dermnetnz.org/topics/Photosensitivity/
2. Bylaite M, Grigaitiene J, Lapinskaite GS. Photodermatoses: classification, evaluation and management. British Journal of Dermatology 2009;161(s3):61–8.
3. Lehmann P, Schwarz T. Photodermatoses: diagnosis and treatment. Deutsches Ärzteblatt International 2011;108(9):135.
4. NHS – Wandsworth Clinical Commissioning Group. Position statement on the prescribing of sunscreens on GP FP10 prescription [Internet]. [cited 2020 Apr 15];Available from: https://www.wandsworthccg.nhs.uk/aboutus/Prescribing%20Guidelines%20v20/Sunscreen%20Prescribing%20Position%20Statement.pdf
5. Wang SQ, Balagula Y, Osterwalder U. Photoprotection: a Review of the Current and Future Technologies. Dermatologic Therapy 2010;23(1):31–47.