Transdermal nicotine for mildly to moderately active ulcerative colitis. A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial

Ann Intern Med. 1997 Mar 1;126(5):364-71. doi: 10.7326/0003-4819-126-5-199703010-00004.


Background: Ulcerative colitis is predominantly a disease of nonsmokers. Transdermal nicotine may help control clinical manifestations of this condition.

Objective: To determine the efficacy of transdermal nicotine for controlling clinical disease activity in active ulcerative colitis.

Design: Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, single-center clinical trial.

Setting: Multispecialty group serving as an academic tertiary referral center.

Patients: 64 nonsmoking patients with mildly to moderately active ulcerative colitis despite the use of medication.

Intervention: Patients were stratified on the basis of smoking history, extent of disease, and concomitant medical therapy. After stratification, patients were randomly assigned to daily treatment with transdermal nicotine (n = 31) at the highest tolerated dose (11 mg for 1 week and then < or = 22 mg for 3 weeks) or placebo (n = 33).

Measurements: Clinical features were assessed at baseline and 4 weeks by endoscopy, physician assessment, and a patient diary of daily symptoms. Serum concentrations of nicotine were determined by using gas chromatography and mass spectrometry, and plasma concentrations of cotinine were measured by using high-performance liquid chromatography.

Results: At 4 weeks, 12 of 31 patients (39%) who received nicotine showed clinical improvement compared with 3 of 33 patients (9%) who received placebo (P = 0.007). Four patients receiving nicotine discontinued therapy because of side effects (contact dermatitis [n = 2], nausea [n = 1], and acute pancreatitis [n = 1]). At week 4, the nicotine group had a mean (+/-SD) trough serum nicotine concentration of 11.3 +/- 8.4 ng/mL and a mean trough plasma cotinine concentration of 192 +/- 95 ng/mL.

Conclusions: Transdermal nicotine administered at the highest tolerated dosage (< or = 22 mg/d) for 4 weeks is efficacious for controlling clinical manifestations of mildly to moderately active ulcerative colitis.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Cutaneous
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / blood
  • Colitis, Ulcerative / drug therapy*
  • Cotinine / blood
  • Dermatitis, Contact / etiology
  • Double-Blind Method
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nausea / chemically induced
  • Nicotine / administration & dosage*
  • Nicotine / adverse effects
  • Nicotine / blood
  • Placebos
  • Remission Induction


  • Placebos
  • Nicotine
  • Cotinine