Predictors and Timing of Adverse Experiences During Transdermal Nicotine Therapy

Abstract

Objectives

Difficulty sleeping is arecognised tobacco withdrawal symptom, but sleep problems, like application site reactions, are commonly reported as adverse reactions to transdermal nicotine therapy. However, no studies have examined potential predictive factors associated with the occurrence of expected adverse experiences during transdermal nicotine therapy. The subject of skin tolerability among patients with a history of eczema, psoriasis or other skin disorders is of particular interest, as are the relationships between plasma concentrations of nicotine, concurrent smoking, sleep problems and nausea.

Methods

The cohort study involving 1392 participants was designed to assess the timing, severity and predictive factors of adverse experiences reported during 24-hour transdermal nicotine therapy. Data were collected on patients aged 18 to 70 years old who were smokers and who had expressed a strong desire to stop smoking. The intervention consisted of brief behavioural counselling, a booklet containing smoking cessation advice and instructions for use of the patches, and a 12-week course of decreasing transdermal nicotine doses.

Results

Follow-up was available on 1392 out of 1481 study participants. The majority of adverse experiences were mild. Sleep problems occurred in 669 out of 1392 (48%) participants and most often commenced on the day of smoking cessation. Application site reactions occurred in 478 out of 1392 (34%) participants and most often occurred after 6 days of therapy. No predictor had an adjusted hazard ratio above 2. Statistically significant (p < 0.05) predictors of sleep problems were successfully quitting smoking and female gender. Predictors of application site reactions were psoriasis or eczema, other skin conditions, age <40 years, female gender, place of birth outside Australasia, and trade or university education level.

Substantially increased nicotine intake during therapy compared with baseline smoking occurred in 8% of participants who smoked concurrently, and 4% of participants who did not (p = 0.1). Increased nicotine intake was associated with a modest increase in the overall rate of adverse experiences (89% vs 63%, p = 0.04) and dizziness/lightheadedness (17% vs 3%, p = 0.03), but not with sleep problems or cardiovascular events.

Conclusions

Transdermal nicotine therapy appears to be well tolerated, even if the user smokes concurrently. Sleep disturbance during therapy appeared to be primarily associated with tobacco withdrawal rather than with nicotine excess from treatment with transdermal nicotine. Study participants with pre-existing skin disorders were somewhat more likely to report mild application site reactions than other participants.

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Correspondence to Dr Steven G. Gourlay.

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Gourlay, S.G., Forbes, A., Marriner, T. et al. Predictors and Timing of Adverse Experiences During Transdermal Nicotine Therapy. Drug-Safety 20, 545–555 (1999). https://doi.org/10.2165/00002018-199920060-00007

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Keywords

  • Nicotine
  • Adis International Limited
  • Smoking Cessation
  • Sleep Problem
  • Nicotine Replacement Therapy