Background: Smoking is the single most preventable cause of premature mortality in the United States. In 13 double-blind, controlled trials, the nicotine transdermal patch has been demonstrated to be an effective aid to quitting smoking, even after 6 months of follow-up. Because physicians and payers may consider the cost of the patch to be prohibitive, we examine the cost-effectiveness of the nicotine patch as an adjunct to brief physician counseling during routine office visits.
Methods: We estimate the effectiveness of both patch use with brief counseling and counseling alone from meta-analysis of clinical trials. Benefits are measured in terms of years of life gained by those who quit, discounted at 5%. Costs include physician time and patch prescriptions. The incremental cost-effectiveness is quantified as cost per additional year of life saved when patch plus counseling is compared with brief physician counseling alone.
Results: Depending on age, the average costs per year of life saved range from $965 to $1,585 for men and from $1,634 to $2,360 for women. Incremental costs per year of life saved range from $1,796 to $2,949 for men and from $3,040 to $4,391 for women.
Conclusion: The nicotine patch is cost-effective and less costly per year of life saved than other widely accepted medical practices. Physicians and third-party payers should recommend the nicotine patch to patients who wish to stop smoking.