Intended for healthcare professionals

Research Article

Effectiveness of a nicotine patch in helping people stop smoking: results of a randomised trial in general practice. Imperial Cancer Research Fund General Practice Research Group.

British Medical Journal 1993; 306 doi: (Published 15 May 1993) Cite this as: British Medical Journal 1993;306:1304


OBJECTIVE--To assess the effectiveness of 12 weeks' treatment with a 24 hour transdermal nicotine patch in helping heavy smokers to stop smoking; also to assess the value of a specially written support booklet about smoking cessation and patch use compared with a simple advice pamphlet. DESIGN--Double blind placebo controlled randomised trial with a 2 x 2 factorial design. SETTING--19 general practices in Oxfordshire. SUBJECTS--1686 heavy smokers aged 25-64 (mean cigarette consumption 24/day; mean duration of smoking 25 years). MAIN OUTCOME MEASURE--Sustained cessation for the last four weeks of the 12 week treatment period, confirmed by saliva cotinine estimation (226/262 cases; 86.3%) or expired carbon monoxide concentration (36/262; 13.7%). Patients lost to follow up (155/1686; 9%) were assumed to have continued to smoke. RESULTS--Cessation was confirmed in 163 patients (19.4%) using the nicotine patch and 99 patients (11.7%) using the placebo patch (difference 7.6% (95% confidence interval 4.2% to 11.1%); p < 0.0001). There was no significant advantage in using the more detailed written support material. The most important adverse effect of the patch was local skin irritation, which occurred in 15.8% (133/842) and 5.1% (43/844) of patients using the nicotine and placebo patches respectively, was graded as severe in 4.8% (40) and 1.1% (nine), and was stated as a reason for withdrawal from the trial in 9.5% (80) and 2.8% (24). CONCLUSION--Nicotine patches are effective in a general practice setting with nursing support, but the extent to which this effect is sustained cannot be assessed until the results of longer term follow up are known.