Bloomberg News

Nicotine Patches, Gums Fail to Help Smokers Quit for Good

January 12, 2012

(Updates with share prices in 10th paragraph.)

Jan. 10 (Bloomberg) -- Nicotine-replacing gums and patches like those from GlaxoSmithKline Plc and Pfizer Inc. failed to help smokers who quit the habit stay off cigarettes, even when used with professional counseling, a study found.

Researchers surveying 781 former smokers found almost a third relapsed even after using nicotine replacement products. Scientists said the results cast doubt on the long-term benefit of products like Pfizer’s Nicotrol inhaler and GlaxoSmithKline’s NicoDerm CQ patch and Nicorette gum, leaders in a market worth $1.2 billion annually, according to IMS Health, a research firm.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration should only approve products that have been shown to help smokers quit and stay off cigarettes for years, said researcher Gregory Connolly, director of the Center for Global Tobacco Control at Harvard School of Public Health, in a statement.

“Using nicotine replacement therapy is no more effective in helping people stop smoking cigarettes in the long-term than trying to quit on one’s own,” said lead author Hillel Alpert, a Harvard research scientist.

While the therapies helped smokers quit in clinical trials where patients are carefully monitored, the study published online yesterday by the journal Tobacco Control shows they’re less effective in a real-world setting, Alpert said. The National Cancer Institute funded the research.

Glaxo Response

Sarah Sanders, a spokeswoman for London-based Glaxo, said that “hundreds” of previous studies had shown the efficacy of nicotine replacement.

“NRT products have helped millions of smokers quit by gradually weaning them off of their tobacco addiction and is recommended as a first-line therapy for quitting,” Sanders wrote in an e-mail. “Despite the authors’ conclusions, there remains strong support for NRT’s efficacy and its positive impact on public health.”

Mackay Jimeson, a spokesman for New York-based Pfizer, said that smokers needed options to help them quit.

“While the health benefits of quitting smoking are immediate and substantial, quitting smoking is a journey and quit strategies can range from ‘cold turkey’ to gum and NRT to other medications and counseling,” he wrote in an e-mail.

Glaxo shares fell 1.1 percent to 1,420 pence at the close today in London. Pfizer shares gained less than 1 percent to $21.87 at 3:10 p.m. in New York trading.

--With assistance from Drew Armstrong in New York. Editors: Angela Zimm, Andrew Pollack

To contact the reporter on this story: Michelle Fay Cortez in Minneapolis at Alex Nussbaum in New York at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Reg Gale at

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