Treatment of arthritis with topical capsaicin: A double-blind trial

C. L. Deal, T. J. Schnitzer, E. Lipstein, J. R. Seibold, R. M. Stevens, M. D. Levy, Daniel Albert, F. Renold

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

232 Scopus citations


The neuropeptide substance P has been implicated in the pathogenesis of inflammation and pain in arthritis. In this double-blind randomized study, 70 patients with osteoarthritis (OA) and 31 with rheumatoid arthritis (RA) received capsaicin (a substance P depletor) or placebo for four weeks. The patients were instructed to apply 0.025% capsaicin cream or its vehicle (placebo) to painful knees four times daily. Pain relief was assessed using visual analog scales for pain and relief, a categorical painscale, and physicians' global evaluations. Most of the patients continued to receive concomitant arthritis medications. Significantly more relief of pain was reported by the capsaicin-treated patients than the placebo patients throughout the study; after four weeks of capsaicin treatment, RA and OA patients demonstrated mean reductions in pain of 57% and 33%, respectively. These reductions in pain were statistically significant compared with those reported with placebo (P = 0.003 and P = 0.033, respectively). According to the global evaluations, 80% of the capsaicin-treated patients experienced a reduction in pain after two weeks of treatment. Transient burning was felt at the sites of drug application by 23 of the 52 capsaicin-treated patients; two patients withdrew from treatment because of this side effect. It is concluded that capsaicin cream is a safe and effective treatment for arthritis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)383-395
Number of pages13
JournalClinical therapeutics
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Aug 15 1991
Externally publishedYes


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)

Cite this

Deal, C. L., Schnitzer, T. J., Lipstein, E., Seibold, J. R., Stevens, R. M., Levy, M. D., ... Renold, F. (1991). Treatment of arthritis with topical capsaicin: A double-blind trial. Clinical therapeutics, 13(3), 383-395.