Extended Patch Therapy Helps Smokers Quit

New dosing recommendations may be in store for nicotine patches, which are more effective when worn longer, according to a new study.

For smokers who have tried and failed to quit smoking with the help of the patch, the results of a recent study may be a breath of fresh air. The report, published in the Annals of Internal Medicine, concluded that smokers who wore nicotine patches for longer than the standard 2 months achieved greater cessation success for the duration of treatment.

To test whether longer patch therapy was more helpful in preventing relapses, researchers at the University of Pennsylvania randomly assigned 568 smokers to receive either a standard 2-month course or an extended 6-month course of treatment. Those receiving the standard treatment were given a placebo patch after the initial 8 weeks, and none of the patients knew which therapy they had been assigned.

After 6 months, patients who wore the medicated patch for the duration of the experiment were significantly more successful. At the time of assessment, 31.6% of extended therapy patients had not smoked in 7 days, compared with only 20.3% in the standard therapy group. Continuous abstinence was also more likely with the 6-month treatment, with 19.2% of extended therapy patients reporting that they had not smoked at all during the 24-week period. Only 12.6% of standard therapy patients achieved this level of abstinence.

The long-term outcomes of 6-month patch therapy were similarly positive, but not as drastic. Extended therapy patients still relapsed after the treatment was over, but for shorter periods of time, researchers found. A total of 29.1% of extended therapy patients reported no lapses longer than 7 days, compared with only 21.3% in the standard group.

These findings corroborate the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s current position on smoking cessation, which advocates multiple attempts and a combination of medication and behavioral therapy to help smokers quit. For many nicotine-dependent patients, extended use of the patch could be the missing piece of a multipronged approach to becoming smoke free.