Pepper Patch for Pain Relief
A double blind study out of the Netherlands, funded by Astellas Pharma, have found that skin patches containing capsaicin, the active component of chili peppers, has been show to significantly reduce pain in patients suffering from Painful Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy (PDPN).
PDPN is characterized by nerve damage due to chronically high blood sugar and diabetes, causing numbness, and often pain in hands, feet, and legs. It is a common complication of diabetes and is most often treated broadly as chronic pain or nerve damage. This study takes a more targeted approach.
The completed study consisted of 352 PDPN patients, half of whom were giving a placebo patch, the other half given a 8% capsaicin patch for only 30 minutes. The patients with the capsaicin achieved at least a 30% reduction on average daily pain, shortened treatment response time, and increased sleep quality. These effects were sustained for up to 12 weeks.
Painful Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy is a debilitating condition that affects approximately one quarter of type 2 diabetes patients. A lack of treatment consensus has led Doctors to prescribe opiods, antidepressants, and anti-seizure medications to combat the pain. However these medications act on the entire central nervous system, not just the site of the pain, and have the potential for addiction, abuse, withdrawal, and worse. The concentrated capsaicin acts by shocking hyperactive neuron receptors near the skin providing rapid and targeted pain relief after only one 30-minute treatment.
Though over 35% of the non-placebo group reported adverse reactions (compared to 13% in the placebo group), most were mild to moderate in intensity; though 3 non-placebo patients saw severe irritation at the application site.
Doubtlessly this will not replace traditional treatment regimens anytime soon, but as research progresses on the effectiveness of capsaicin for nerve pain relief, it will be helpful to doctors and patients to have a moderately effective and comparably benign treatment for such a complex problem.
To date this is the first known study using a capsaicin patch for pain relief in this population, but if the results are any indication it will not be the last.
Capsaicin 8% Patch in Painful Diabetic Peripheral Neuropathy: A Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Study Simpson, David M. et al. The Journal of Pain , Volume 18 , Issue 1 , 42 – 53