Nicotine patches in patients on mechanical ventilation for severe COVID-19: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, multicentre trial

Intensive Care Med. 2022 Jul;48(7):876-887. doi: 10.1007/s00134-022-06721-1. Epub 2022 Jun 9.


Purpose: Epidemiologic studies have documented lower rates of active smokers compared to former or non-smokers in symptomatic patients affected by coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19). We assessed the efficacy and safety of nicotine administered by a transdermal patch in critically ill patients with COVID-19 pneumonia.

Methods: In this multicentre, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial conducted in 18 intensive care units in France, we randomly assigned adult patients (non-smokers, non-vapers or who had quit smoking/vaping for at least 12 months) with proven COVID-19 pneumonia receiving invasive mechanical ventilation for up to 72 h to receive transdermal patches containing either nicotine at a daily dose of 14 mg or placebo until 48 h following successful weaning from mechanical ventilation or for a maximum of 30 days, followed by 3-week dose tapering by 3.5 mg per week. Randomization was stratified by centre, non- or former smoker status and Sequential Organ Function Assessment score (< or ≥ 7). The primary outcome was day-28 mortality. Main prespecified secondary outcomes included 60-day mortality, time to successful extubation, days alive and free from mechanical ventilation, renal replacement therapy, vasopressor support or organ failure at day 28.

Results: Between November 6th 2020, and April 2nd 2021, 220 patients were randomized from 18 active recruiting centers. After excluding 2 patients who withdrew consent, 218 patients (152 [70%] men) were included in the analysis: 106 patients to the nicotine group and 112 to the placebo group. Day-28 mortality did not differ between the two groups (30 [28%] of 106 patients in the nicotine group vs 31 [28%] of 112 patients in the placebo group; odds ratio 1.03 [95% confidence interval, CI 0.57-1.87]; p = 0.46). The median number of day-28 ventilator-free days was 0 (IQR 0-14) in the nicotine group and 0 (0-13) in the placebo group (with a difference estimate between the medians of 0 [95% CI -3-7]). Adverse events likely related to nicotine were rare (3%) and similar between the two groups.

Conclusion: In patients having developed severe COVID-19 pneumonia requiring invasive mechanical ventilation, transdermal nicotine did not significantly reduce day-28 mortality. There is no indication to use nicotine in this situation.

Trial registration: NCT04598594.

Keywords: Acute respiratory failure; Artificial; COVID-19; Intensive care units; Nicotine; Nicotinic receptor; Randomized trial; Ventilation.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • COVID-19* / therapy
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Intensive Care Units
  • Male
  • Nicotine / adverse effects
  • Respiration, Artificial
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Nicotine

Associated data