Magazine article Drug Topics

Quitters or Not, Patients Still like Nicotine Patches

Magazine article Drug Topics

Quitters or Not, Patients Still like Nicotine Patches

Article excerpt

Even when patients' plans to give up cigarettes go up in smoke, they still have good things to say about transdermal nicotine patches. But pharmacists could do better when it comes to helping them stick with therapy. Those are among the findings of a new survey commissioned by Marion Merrell Dow Inc. and carried out by Rothstein Tauber Inc., an independent research company.

A total of 351 patch users were questioned by telephone. Of these, 129 were being treated or had recently been treated with MMD's Nicoderm, 148 were users of Basel Pharmaceuticals' Habitrol, and 74 were users of Lederle Laboratories' ProStep.

The primary goal of the study was to determine what patients thought of nicotine patches, Greg Westerbeck, MMD's product director for Nicoderm and Nicorette, told Drug Topics. The secondary objective was to find out more about the process patients went through to get the patch and what they learned from health professionals involved in their care. That way, he said, "we could figure out where we go back and improve the process."

USERS 'SATISFIED': What those conducting the survey found was that of the people who were no longer using a product at the time they were polled (296 participants), 44% had stopped smoking. Still, 89% of those surveyed said they were "satisfied" with the way the nicotine patches helped diminish physical withdrawal symptoms. What's more, 93% of ProStep patients, 89% of Nicoderm users, and 88% of Habitrol patients said they would use the product again if additional treatment were needed.

Although less than half of those who had undergone therapy were actually able to quit, the discovery was apparently not all that disappointing. "At first blush, it seems a little bit distressing," Edward Hesterlee, MMD's director of pharmacy relations, told Drug Topics. But, he said, "for a condition like smoking, I think [44%] is outstanding."

The success rates associated with behavior-modification programs that have no nicotine-replacement component are only about 10% to 20%, said Hesterlee, adding that here, "you've doubled what was out there beforehand. From that standpoint, you have to be quite pleased."

What was discouraging, however, was the discovery that patients aren't getting as much support as they should from pharmacists and physicians. Twenty-four percent of respondents said that the pharmacist was the only person to explain the proper use of the product; 26% said the doctor or a member of the doctor's staff offered the single bit of counseling they received. Another 24% said that both the R.Ph. and the physician or a physician's staff member provided the information they needed to use the product correctly.

In addition, only 51% of those surveyed left the doctor's office with support materials, such as pamphlets, books, or tapes. Of patients who did receive such items, 81% went home and used them. When those who had used the support gear were questioned, 41% said they found the materials to be "very" helpful, while 46% thought they were "somewhat" helpful. Only 13% said they were "not at all" helpful.

The data imply that health-care professionals are "assuming that someone else in the chain is providing the information," Westerbeck remarked. "The pharmacist thinks the physician took care of that. The physician thinks the pharmacist will take care of that--or the nurse will, or somebody else will. And when you put it all together, you realize there are groups of people going through the process and nobody's telling them anything. …

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