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J Pain Symptom Manage. 2000 Jan;19(1):45-52.

Topical capsaicin in the management of HIV-associated peripheral neuropathy.

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Palliative Care and Home Hospice Program, Northwestern University, Chicago, Illinois 60611, USA.


Distal symmetrical peripheral neuropathy (DSPN) is a particularly distressing pain syndrome associated with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) disease. Capsaicin has been found to be effective in relieving pain associated with other neuropathic pain syndromes, and is mentioned as a possible topical adjuvant analgesic for the relief of DSPN. This multicenter, controlled, randomized, double-masked clinical trial studied patients with HIV-associated DSPN and compared measures of pain intensity, pain relief, sensory perception, quality of life, mood, and function for patients who received topical capsaicin to the corresponding measures for patients who received the vehicle only. Twenty-six subjects were enrolled in the study. At the end of 1 week, subjects receiving capsaicin tended to report higher current pain scores than did subjects receiving the vehicle (Mann-Whitney test; P = 0.042). The dropout rate was higher for the capsaicin group (67%) than for the vehicle group (18%) (chi 2 test of association; P = 0.014). There were no other statistically significant differences between the capsaicin and vehicle groups with respect to current pain, worst pain, pain relief, sensory perception, quality of life, mood, or function at study entry or at any time during the 4-week trial. These results suggest capsaicin is ineffective in relieving pain associated with HIV-associated DSPN.

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