Capsaicin (Axsain / Zacin)

Capsaicin (Axsain / Zacin) is an approved cream used for the temporary relief of pain due to by peripheral neuropathy, which can be caused by HIV infection or treatment, herpes virus or diabetes. Capsaicin is a naturally occurring chemical that produces the ‘hot’ flavour in chilli peppers. It works by interrupting the transmission of pain impulses from the affected area of the skin to the brain, and by causing the pain-sensitive nerve fibres to die back temporarily.

Capsaicin is manufactured by Euroderma under the trade name Axsain or, in the United States, Zostrix.

Some studies have failed to show a benefit of capsaicin cream in patients with HIV-associated neuropathy, with high drop-out rates, primarily due to the side-effects of burning sensations on the skin.1 However, a recent study using skin patches containing 8% capsaicin in patients with neuropathy as a side-effect of HIV treatment has been more promising. In this trial, a local anaesthetic was applied to the skin before the patch was applied for up to 90 minutes, with pain reduction being observed for over 12 weeks after a single application. The patches were well tolerated, with only 3% of the patients needing to remove the patches early because of burning sensations.2

Capsaicin patches are not yet available commercially, but may be a useful treatment for HIV-related peripheral neuropathy in the future.


  1. Paice JA et al. Topical capsaicin in the management of HIV-associated peripheral neuropathy. J Pain Symptom Manage 19: 45-52, 2000
  2. Simpson D et al. Controlled study of high-concentration capsaicin patch for painful HIV-associated distal sensory polyneuropathy. 13th Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections, Denver, abstract 79, 2006

Community Consensus Statement on Access to HIV Treatment and its Use for Prevention

Together, we can make it happen

We can end HIV soon if people have equal access to HIV drugs as treatment and as PrEP, and have free choice over whether to take them.

Launched today, the Community Consensus Statement is a basic set of principles aimed at making sure that happens.

The Community Consensus Statement is a joint initiative of AVAC, EATG, MSMGF, GNP+, HIV i-Base, the International HIV/AIDS Alliance, ITPC and NAM/aidsmap

This content was checked for accuracy at the time it was written. It may have been superseded by more recent developments. NAM recommends checking whether this is the most current information when making decisions that may affect your health.

NAM’s information is intended to support, rather than replace, consultation with a healthcare professional. Talk to your doctor or another member of your healthcare team for advice tailored to your situation.