To assess the use and effectiveness of transdermal nicotine patches by smokers receiving care in primary care settings. Telephone survey of a convenience sample of patients. Primary care settings in western New York. Two hundred eighty-four adult members of an independent practice association health maintenance organization who received a prescription for transdermal nicotine between January 1, 1992, and June 30, 1992. Patient reports regarding advice received from physicians about the use of the nicotine patch, cessation methods used in addition to the patch, usual daily use of the patch, side effects experienced while wearing the patch, and smoking behavior while using the patch and after discontinuing therapy. Most patients reported getting proper advice from their physician about how to use the nicotine patch and possible side effects. The majority of those who used the patch said they used it every day for 24 hours. Side effects associated with using the patch were common but did not cause many subjects to discontinue therapy. Half of the patients who had completed patch therapy were not smoking, including 43% of patients who had not been using the patch for 4 months or longer. Transdermal nicotine patches appear to be an effective cessation aid for smokers receiving care outside specialized smoking cessation programs. Proper pretreatment screening to identify patients who are motivated to stop smoking is critical to the success of nicotine patch therapy.
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