Qutenza (Capsaicin 8% Patch) - Topical

What Is Qutenza?

Qutenza (capsaicin 8% patch) is a topical patch used to treat nerve pain (neuropathic pain) from post-herpetic neuralgia, a nerve and skin condition from shingles that causes burning pain, and nerve pain from diabetic peripheral neuropathy which causes numbness and reduced ability to feel sensation in the feet. It is a TRPV1 channel agonist so it works to prevent nerve pain by binding to special receptors (transient receptor potential vanilloid-1 (TRPV-1) receptors) in your skin's nerves. Qutenza should not be dispensed or used for self-administration or handling. Applying Quentza skin patches requires extra precautions. Only healthcare professionals should administer them.

Drug Facts

Generic Name: Capsaicin 8%

Brand Name(s): Qutenza

Drug Availability: Prescription

Therapeutic Classification: TRPV1 channel agonist

Available Generically: Yes

Controlled Substance: N/A

Administration Route: Topical

Active Ingredient: Capsaicin

Dosage Form(s): Patch

What Is Qutenza Used For?

Qutenza (capsaicin 8% patch) is used to treat nerve pain, associated with postherpetic neuralgia (burning pain in skin and nerves caused by the chicken pox virus) and nerve pain associated with diabetic peripheral neuropathy (numbness, tingling or pain due to uncontrolled blood sugar in diabetes).

Qutenza (Capasaicin) Drug Information - Illustration by Zoe Hansen

Verywell / Zoe Hansen

How to Take Qutenza

You should never self-administer or handle Qutenza by yourself. A healthcare professional will apply this medication.

Capsaicin can cause severe irritation of eyes, mucous membranes, respiratory tract and skin. Your healthcare provider will use special medical equipment and protective measures, and will follow specific procedures to make sure that your patches are applied properly. 

Your healthcare provider may apply a numbing medicine to your treatment area to help decrease any discomfort when the patch is applied. Your healthcare provider may also check your feet for any numbness, tingling, swelling or pain if they're using the patches for diabetic peripheral neuropathy.

Leave your patch in place for at least 60 minutes for post-herpetic neuralgia or 30 minutes for diabetic peripheral neuropathy. Please do not touch your patch while it's on your skin. Your healthcare provider may also cover your treatment area with a rolled gauze or dressing to keep your patch in place. Your healthcare provider will apply a cleansing gel for at least 1 minute after removing your patch. After application, your treatment area may be sensitive to heat for the next few days, so you may want to avoid hot showers/baths, direct sunlight, and vigorous exercise.

Avoid touching mucous membranes, eyes and other unintended target areas. Immediately report any eye or airway irritation, or any severe side effects to your healthcare provider and seek medical attention.

Storage

Store this medicine in a closed container at room temperature, away from heat, moisture, and direct light. Keep out of reach of children and pets.

How Long Does Qutenza Take to Work?

It might take Qutenza (capsaicin 8% patch) up to three weeks to work.

Off-Label Uses

Qutenza is prescribed off-label for treatment of nerve pain due to HIV.

What Are the Side Effects of Qutenza?

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. A healthcare provider can advise you on side effects. If you experience other effects, contact your pharmacist or a healthcare provider. You may report side effects to the FDA at fda.gov/medwatch or 800-FDA-1088.

Common Side Effects

Common side effects of Qutenza may include:

  • Reddening of the skin (erythema)
  • Application site pain, sometimes burning sensation
  • Application site rash
  • Itching at application site
  • Nausea
  • Coughing or sneezing from inhalation of airborne capsaicin (nasopharyngitis)

Severe Side Effects

Severe side effects may include:

  • Increase blood pressure (hypertension
  • Fast, slow, pounding, or uneven heartbeat
  • Loss of sensory function.

Call your healthcare provider right away if you have any of these serious side effects. Call 911 if your symptoms feel life-threatening or think you’re having a medical emergency.

Report Side Effects

Qutenza may cause other side effects. Call your healthcare provider if you have any unusual problems while taking this medication.

If you experience a serious side effect, you or your healthcare provider may send a report to the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting Program or by phone (800-332-1088).

Dosage: How Much Qutenza Should I Take?

Qutenza (capsaicin 8% patch) should only be applied by a healthcare provider. Your healthcare provider will decide your appropriate dosage.

Modifications

Qutenza during pregnancy and breastfeeding has not been well studied in humans. And while capsaicin may likely be absorbed as a fairly small amount and exposure of your fetus or breastfeeding child should be pretty minimal, discuss your use of Qutenza and any potential effects with your healthcare provider. As with any skin product that could cause irritation or side effects, be sure to discuss Qutenza's use if you are breastfeeding to ensure that your baby is not unintentionally exposed to the capsaicin from your skin.

Qutenza's safety and effectiveness has not been well studied in people younger than 18 years old.

In clinical studies, adjustments in dosage of Qutenza weren't necessary for individuals over the age of 65 years.

Missed Dose

If you miss your dose, schedule with your healthcare provider so that they may apply Qutenza as soon as possible. Setting up appointment reminders (ex., in your phone, calendar) can also be helpful to stay on track with your treatment.

Overdose: What Happens If I Take Too Much Qutenza?

There are no clinical reports of overdose with Qutenza. Since Qutenza is normally only given in the medical setting if a medical emergency were to happen, your healthcare provider will know what to do.

Precautions

Drug Content Provided and Reviewed by IBM Micromedex®

If you use the Qutenza® patch: 

  • Your doctor will check you closely for any problems or unwanted effects (eg, loss of sensory function) that may be caused by this medicine.
  • Your blood pressure will be measured while the patch is on your skin and after it has been removed. If you notice any change to your recommended blood pressure at home, call your doctor right away. If you have questions about this, talk to your doctor.
  • You may have some skin redness, burning, or a stinging sensation at the application site. Heat, humidity, bathing in warm water, or sweating may increase the burning sensation. If this irritation is severe or does not go away, call your doctor.
  • Your skin may be more sensitive to heat and sunlight. Use a sunscreen when you are outdoors. Avoid sunlamps and tanning beds.
  • Check with your doctor right away if you have coughing, sneezing, or any breathing problems after the patch is removed.
  • If skin not intended to be treated got exposed to the patch, apply cleansing gel for 1 minute and wipe off with gauze. Wash with soap and water.
  • You may feel pain and a burning feeling during application and after removal of the patch, even after using a numbing medicine on the affected area. Your doctor may give you an ice pack or oral pain medicine to treat this pain.

If you use the cream, gel, lotion, or ointment: 

  • You may have some skin redness, burning, or a stinging sensation at the application site. Although this usually disappears after the first several days, it may last 2 to 4 weeks. Heat, humidity, bathing in warm water, or sweating may increase the burning sensation. If this irritation is severe or does not go away, call your doctor.
  • The burning sensation will not improve or go away if you reduce the number of doses you use each day. Using fewer doses may also reduce the amount of pain relief you get.
  • Your skin may be more sensitive to heat and sunlight. Use a sunscreen when you are outdoors. Avoid sunlamps and tanning beds.
  • Check with your doctor right away if you have coughing or any breathing problems after the medicine has dried on the skin.

What Are Reasons I Shouldn’t Take Qutenza?

Please talk with your healthcare provider before starting Qutenza if you:

  • Are pregnant or breastfeeding
  • Have uncontrolled high blood pressure, or a recent history of heart, blood vessel or brain problems
  • Have sensory function problems

Based upon the severity of your condition, your healthcare provider may decide that Qutenza is not the best drug for you.

What Other Medications Interact With Qutenza?

It's important to let your healthcare provider know about any other skin medicines you may be using before they apply Qutenza (capsaicin 8% patch) to an area on your skin. Do not put cosmetics or skin care products on the treated skin, unless instructed by your healthcare provider.

What Medications Are Similar?

There are several prescription pain relieving patches on the market, including:

  • Salonpas (methyl salicylate): A nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID),
  • Flector (diclofenac epolamine): NSAID,
  • Lidoderm (lidocaine): A local anesthetic.

Other capsaicin-containing products on the market include gels and creams like the over-the-counter product, Zostrix.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is Qutenza used for?

    Qutenza is used to treat nerve pain from postherpetic neuralgia (burning pain in skin and nerves caused by the chicken pox virus) or diabetic peripheral neuropathy (numbness, tingling or pain due to uncontrolled blood sugar in diabetes).

  • How should I administer Qutenza?

    You should not self-administer or handle Qutenza. It should only be administered by your healthcare provider.

  • How does Qutenza work?

    It works to prevent nerve pain by binding to special receptors in the skin (transient receptor potential vanilloid-1 (TRPV-1) receptors).

How Can I Stay Healthy While Taking Qutenza?

This medicine may make your skin more sensitive to sunlight. Wear sunscreen if needed. Do not use sunlamps or tanning beds. You should avoid hot showers or baths, or excessive exercise during the first few days following the applications of Qutenza.

Your healthcare provider will check your progress and the effects of this medicine at regular visits. Try your best to keep all of your appointments. Your blood pressure will be measured while the patch is on your skin and after it's removed. If you check your blood pressure at home and notice any changes, call your healthcare provider right away.

Medical Disclaimer

Verywell Health's drug information is meant for educational purposes only and not intended as a replacement for medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a healthcare provider. Consult your healthcare provider before taking any new medication(s). IBM Watson Micromedex provides some of the drug content, as indicated on the page.

3 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Gibson RA, Robertson J, Mistry H, et al. A randomised trial evaluating the effects of the TRPV1 antagonist SB705498 on pruritus induced by histamine, and cowhage challenge in healthy volunteersPLoS One. 2014;9(7):e100610. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0100610

  2. Food and Drug Administration. Qutenza label.

  3. Goncalves D, Rebelo V, Barbosa P, Gomes A. 8% Capsaicin patch in treatment of peripheral neuropathic painPain Physician. 2020;23(5):E541-E548.