Background: The use of nicotine chewing gum combined with psychological support improves the success rate in quitting smoking. We studied the safety and efficacy of a transdermal nicotine patch in smoking cessation.
Methods: We conducted a double-blind randomized study comparing the effects of a 16-hour nicotine patch (15 +/- 3.5 mg of nicotine in 16 hours) with those of a placebo patch. Of the 289 smokers (207 women and 82 men) enrolled in the study, 145 were treated with nicotine patches and 144 with placebo patches for 16 weeks.
Results: Rates of sustained abstinence were significantly better with active treatment than with placebo: 53, 41, 24, and 17 percent of those in the nicotine-patch group were abstinent after 6, 12, 26, and 52 weeks, respectively, as compared with 17, 10, 5, and 4 percent of those in the placebo-patch group (P less than 0.0001). Only two subjects with the nicotine patch and one with the placebo patch had to withdraw from the study because of side effects.
Conclusions: The nicotine skin patch proved to be safe and effective, as demonstrated by a higher rate of abstinence than with placebo. However, the absolute rate of abstinence after one year was only 17 percent, which is lower than the rate in studies that have combined the use of nicotine chewing gum with behavioral therapy.