Sounds crazy: Hot pepper may become the first remedy approved to ease the needling and numbing of HIV-related peripheral neuropathy (PN)—nerve damage from the virus and meds—that make walking or even standing a trial for about 30% of HIVers.

But it’s true. Patches of high-dose capsaicin (think spicy red chili pepper) soothed PN-plagued HIVers in a Phase III trial. The compound’s maker, NeurogesX, plans another test later this year (check for enrollment updates) and hopes to file for FDA approval in 2007. The sizzling stuff cools PN by burning out pain-producing nerve fibers—leaving other nerve functions untouched. A capsaicin application in Doc’s office numbs PN for three months before the nerves grow back.

Two other PN studies will start soon (call 212.241.0762). One will try Lyrica (already approved for diabetic PN) on HIVers; the other will test hypnosis. You are getting sleepy….