Send to

Choose Destination
See comment in PubMed Commons below
Gut. 2003 Sep;52(9):1323-6.

Topical capsaicin--a novel and effective treatment for idiopathic intractable pruritus ani: a randomised, placebo controlled, crossover study.

Author information

  • 1Department of Gastroenterology, Hadassah University Hospital, Hebrew University Medical School, Jerusalem, Israel.



Pruritus ani is a common and embarrassing proctological condition which can be very difficult to treat. We report the results of a double blind placebo controlled study of treatment with capsaicin.


Firstly, a pilot open study was carried out on five patients to establish which of two doses was the most acceptable by comparing effectiveness and side effects. Secondly, a double blind, placebo controlled, crossover study of topical capsaicin was performed. This study involved two four week treatment phases separated by a one week washout phase. Forty four patients were randomised to receive locally either active capsaicin (0.006%) or placebo (menthol 1%) ointment over a four week period (22 patients per group). After four weeks of treatment and a one week washout period, the placebo group began to receive capsaicin while the treated group received placebo (menthol 1%) for another four weeks. At the end of the controlled study, responders from both groups continued with capsaicin treatment in an open labelled manner.


Thirty one of 44 patients experienced relief during capsaicin treatment periods and did not respond to menthol; all patients not responding to capsaicin also failed on menthol (p<0.0001). In 13 patients, treatment with capsaicin was unsuccessful: eight patients did not respond to capsaicin treatment, one responded equally to capsaicin and placebo, and four others dropped out because of side effects. During the follow up period (mean 10.9 (SD 5.8) months), 29 "responders" needed a mean application of capsaicin every day (1.6 (SD 1.2); range 0.5-7 days) to remain symptom free (or nearly symptom free).


Capsaicin is a new, safe, and highly effective treatment for severe intractable idiopathic pruritus ani.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
PubMed Commons home

PubMed Commons

How to join PubMed Commons

    Supplemental Content

    Full text links

    Icon for HighWire Icon for PubMed Central
    Loading ...
    Support Center