Research Article

Targeting heavy smokers in general practice: randomised controlled trial of transdermal nicotine patches.

BMJ 1993; 306 doi: (Published 15 May 1993) Cite this as: BMJ 1993;306:1308
  1. M A Russell,
  2. J A Stapleton,
  3. C Feyerabend,
  4. S M Wiseman,
  5. G Gustavsson,
  6. U Sawe,
  7. P Connor
  1. Health Behaviour Unit, Institute of Psychiatry, London.


    OBJECTIVES--(a) To evaluate the efficacy of transdermal nicotine patches as an aid to stopping smoking when used as an adjunct to brief advice and support in a general practice setting; (b) to see whether an increase in nicotine patch dosage enhances the rate of initial cessation. DESIGN--Randomised double blind placebo controlled parallel group study with one year of follow up. SETTING--30 general practices in 15 English counties. SUBJECTS--600 dependent heavy smokers (> or = 15 cigarettes daily) who were well motivated to give up. INTERVENTIONS--Brief general practitioner advice, booklet, and 16 hours per day patch treatment for 18 weeks with brief support and follow up at one, three, six, 12, 26, and 52 weeks. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES--Self reported complete abstinence for up to one year with biochemical validation at all follow up points. RESULTS--Nicotine patches reduced the severity of craving and adverse mood changes in the first weeks of withdrawal and doubled the rate of initial cessation at week 3 (nicotine group 36% of patients (144/400), placebo group 16.5% of patients (33/200)) and of continuous abstinence throughout one year (nicotine group 9.3% (37), placebo group 5.0% (10)). A dose increase at week 1 among patients experiencing difficulty in quitting increased the proportion who achieved abstinence at week 3. There were no adverse systemic effects attributable to nicotine, but the incidence of moderate or severe local irritation or itching at the patch site was 16.4% (63 patients), compared with 3.8% (seven) with placebo. CONCLUSION--Transdermal nicotine patches used as an adjunct to brief advice and support in a general practice setting are an effective aid to long term cessation of smoking in highly dependent smokers.