Background: Although transdermal nicotine patches are frequently prescribed to aid in smoking cessation, little information exists about their use in general medical practice. In clinical studies, nicotine patches have been found to be effective when used in conjunction with nonpharmacologic interventions, such as physician counseling and follow-up visits. This study examines the characteristics and perceptions of patients regarding treatment with nicotine patches.
Methods: Patients filling or refilling prescriptions for a nicotine patch at 17 pharmacies were asked to complete a questionnaire.
Results: Seventy-six questionnaires were returned. Thirty-six percent of the respondents first learned about the nicotine patch from the media, 32% from friends, family, or co-workers, and 25% from their physicians. Most respondents (87%) had requested the patch, whereas only 9% had been asked by their prescriber to try the patch. Most of the surveyed smokers were highly motivated to quit, and 86% smoked at least one pack per day. Eighty percent indicated they had received a clear message from their physicians to quit, 56% said their physician had counseled them about relapse, and 55% had follow-up arranged. A quit date had been set by 37%, and only 24% reported the use of self-help materials. Approximately one half of smokers (54%) who had started using the patch indicated that they continued to smoke.
Conclusions: Most respondents were good candidates for the nicotine patch based on how much they smoked and their motivation to quit. Direct-to-consumer advertising may have influenced many smokers to request treatment with the patch. Physicians should recognize that some persons may use the patch as a "quick fix," as very few respondents used the number of nonpharmacologic interventions that have proved useful in nicotine patch clinical trials. Physicians should follow the progress of patch users to ensure that they completely stop smoking during treatment.