The cost-effectiveness of the nicotine transdermal patch for smoking cessation

Prev Med. 1997 Mar-Apr;26(2):264-70. doi: 10.1006/pmed.1996.0127.


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.

Publication types

  • Meta-Analysis
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Administration, Cutaneous
  • Adult
  • Age Distribution
  • Aged
  • Clinical Trials as Topic
  • Cost-Benefit Analysis
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nicotine / administration & dosage*
  • Nicotine / economics*
  • Sex Distribution
  • Smoking Cessation / economics*
  • Smoking Cessation / methods
  • Tobacco Use Disorder / drug therapy*
  • Treatment Outcome
  • Value of Life*


  • Nicotine