Nicotine patches by themselves may not be of much use to smokers trying to quit. The patches have to be part of an overall strategy, stress researchers.
"Many smokers regard patches as magic bullets in their quest to stop smoking. This may be misleading because minimal support, such as medical advice or telephone counselling, in addition to the patches may be the necessary ingredients for achieving modest success rates," says Associate Professor Raoul Walsh from the Centre for Health Research and Psycho-oncology (CHeRP), Australia.
But he acknowledges nicotine replacement therapies, such as nicotine gum, lozenges or patches, purchased at the local supermarket can be effective as part of an overall strategy to help people stop smoking.
Associate Professor Walsh reviewed 12 studies relating to the effectiveness of over-the-counter nicotine replacement therapy.
His review revealed that the methods used in nicotine replacement therapy trials were very different from real life. Based on the results, people cannot make valid assumptions on the effectiveness of the therapies.
Over-optimistic assumptions do not help, he said.
"To gain realistic measures of success, future research must involve more innovative, rigorous controlled trials where nicotine dependence is adequately assessed."
Associate Professor Walsh's review findings are published in the journal Drug and Alcohol Review
. He hopes the review will result in education programs that emphasise the need for people to use over-the-counter nicotine replacement therapy in conjunction with other strategies.