The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved NeurogesX’s Qutenza (capsaicin) 8% patch, which uses the same substance that gives chillis their heat to manage neuropathic pain associated with shingles.

The new treatment delivers a synthetic form of capsaicin, the substance in chilli peppers that gives them their heat sensation, through a dermal delivery system, to provide up to 12 weeks of reduced pain following a single one-hour application.

Lifetree Clinical Research medical director Lynn Webster said that postherpetic neuralgia (PHN) can be an excruciatingly painful condition that can affect many aspects of a patient’s quality of life.

“Despite a variety of medications for pain, undesirable side effects often limit their use. Qutenza may provide a unique treatment option that works at the site of the pain and may be useful as a treatment option in combination with existing therapies,” Webster said.

Clinical studies have shown a single one-hour treatment can reduce PHN for up to 12 weeks. Qutenza is a locally acting, non-narcotic medication that is unlikely to cause drowsiness or have drug-drug interactions.

The treatment is the first from NeurogesX to receive FDA approval and the initial launch of Qutenza is planned for the first half of 2010.