Efficacy and safety profile of a topical methyl salicylate and menthol patch in adult patients with mild to moderate muscle strain: a randomized, double-blind, parallel-group, placebo-controlled, multicenter study

Clin Ther. 2010 Jan;32(1):34-43. doi: 10.1016/j.clinthera.2010.01.016.


Background: An occlusive patch formulation containing 10% methyl salicylate and 3% l-menthol was recently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of mild to moderate pain. Despite widespread use of counterirritants, including methyl salicylate and menthol, for topical pain relief, published efficacy and safety data regarding the use of the agents alone or in combination are limited.

Objective: The goal of this study was to determine the efficacy and safety profile of a patch containing 10% methyl salicylate and 3% l-menthol compared with a placebo patch in adult patients with mild to moderate muscle strain.

Methods: Eligible patients were men or women aged >or=18 years with a clinical diagnosis of mild to moderate muscle strain. Patients were randomly assigned to receive either 1 active patch or 1 placebo patch applied to the skin at the affected area (ie, shoulder, upper back, upper arm, neck, calf, thigh, forearm, abdomen). Pain intensity was assessed on a 100-mm visual analog scale while at rest and with movement for 12 hours after patch application. The primary efficacy end point was the summed pain intensity difference score through 8 hours (SPID8) with movement. Analyses included use of descriptive statistics and an ANOVA model. Safety data, including adverse events, and secondary efficacy end points were also evaluated.

Results: A total of 208 patients (104 men, 104 women; age range, 18-78 years) were randomized to 1 of 2 study groups (105 in the active-patch group [mean age, 37.3 years], 103 in the placebo-patch group [mean age, 38.1 years]). The primary efficacy analysis (SPID8 with movement) indicated that patients receiving the active patch experienced significantly greater pain relief (approximately 40%) than those patients receiving a placebo patch (mean [SD], 182.6 [131.2] vs 130.1 [144.1]; P = 0.005). Analysis of the per-protocol population also found significantly more relief (P = 0.024) in the active-patch group (176.2 [131.4]; n = 92) versus the placebo-patch group (130.2 [144.0]; n = 96). Statistical analysis of secondary efficacy measures supported the primary end-point results. The number of patients experiencing any type of adverse event was comparable between study groups (active patch, 6.7% [7 events]; placebo patch, 5.8% [6 events]). No serious adverse events were reported during the study.

Conclusion: A single, 8-hour application of a patch containing methyl salicylate and l-menthol provided significant relief of pain associated with mild to moderate muscle strain in these adult patients compared with patients receiving a placebo patch.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Cutaneous
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Antipruritics / administration & dosage*
  • Antirheumatic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Menthol / administration & dosage*
  • Middle Aged
  • Muscle, Skeletal / drug effects*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / injuries
  • Pain Measurement
  • Placebos / administration & dosage
  • Salicylates / administration & dosage*
  • Severity of Illness Index
  • Sprains and Strains / drug therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Young Adult


  • Antipruritics
  • Antirheumatic Agents
  • Placebos
  • Salicylates
  • Menthol
  • methyl salicylate