Zoster pain can range from sharp to burning to tingling. It can disrupt mood and activities of daily living. The Qutenza patch is used to treat the type of nerve pain (called postherpetic neuralgia) caused by herpes zoster (shingles). Qutenza delivers medicine directly into the skin, working on those painful nerves. According to clinical studies, a single, one-hour application of the patch can provide up to three months of pain relief.
The Qutenza patch contains an active form of capsaicin, a substance found naturally in red chili peppers that produces heat. Patches are applied to the skin and the capsaicin is absorbed into the affected nerves. (The use of these patches is also indicated for other skin-related nerve pain as a result of HIV infection or of other conditions or medicines.)
Capsaicin works by desensitizing sensory nerve cells (called nociceptor), which are located at the end of nerves. When the capsaicin binds to these pain receptors, while it initially causes a painful burning, it overloads the nerve cells. This causes those nerves to desensitize and become less responsive to pain. It can take from one to 14 days for the full pain relief to take effect.
Qutenza is a locally-acting, non-narcotic medication that is unlikely to cause side effects such as drowsiness or other drug-related interactions. Treatment with Qutenza may be repeated every three or more months as necessitated by the return of pain.
In clinical trials, Qutenza has been shown to relieve pain for up to three months in people with nerve pain due to shingles. The best aspect of the Qutenza treatment is that, for many patients, it is used as a single treatment in the physician’s office, providing long-term relief. The Qutenza treatment itself takes several steps, including the use of an anesthetic cream, before the application of the Qutenza patch.
Before using the Qutenza patch, patients are asked about any conflicting medical conditions, particularly if any of the following apply: