Objectives: To examine how transdermal nicotine is prescribed and used in the general population, and to identify variables associated with successful smoking cessation in patch users.
Design: Retrospective cohort survey.
Setting: A random sample of 70 pharmacies in King County, Washington, were asked to participate. Of those, 33 pharmacies ran computer searches of prescriptions for any nicotine patch dispensed between July 1 and December 31, 1992. A total of 1,087 individuals receiving patches were identified.
Patients: At least eight months after the nicotine patches were purchased, 972 subjects received questionnaires by mail from the participating pharmacies. The survey was completed by 433 (45.2%) subjects.
Main results: Eighty percent of the respondents requested patches from a provider, 81% of whom were primary care physicians. Ninety-six percent used the patch, 45% smoked while using the patch, and 37% reported having quit smoking. Smoking cessation was associated with daily patch application (odds ratio [OR] 1.6, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.2-2.2), abstinence during patch use (OR 7.7, 95% CI 4.8-12.5), and a longer duration of patch use (p = 0.001). A score reflecting counseling intensity by the provider was associated with abstinence while using patches and smoking cessation (chi 2 for tread = 0.01 and 0.04, respectively).
Conclusions: Most nicotine patch users request treatment from a primary care physician, suggesting motivation to quit. Almost half continue to smoke while using the patch, a behavior that appears related to a lower level of counseling and an inability to quit. Increasing counseling may positively impact nicotine-patch-assisted smoking cessation in the general population.