High dose transdermal nicotine therapy for heavy smokers: safety, tolerability and measurement of nicotine and cotinine levels

P. A. Fredrickson, G. M. Lee, L. Wingender, R. D. Hurt, I. T. Croghan, G. Lauger, K. P. Offord, L. Gomez-Dahl

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

58 Scopus citations


Transdermal nicotine has been shown to relieve nicotine withdrawal and to double smoking cessation rates compared to placebo in clinical trials. A 21 or 22 mg/day dose provides a steady state serum nicotine that is less than obtained from smoking. Limited information is available about higher nicotine patch doses. To define better the optimal dosing of nicotine patch therapy, we undertook an open-label study to determine the safety and tolerability of 44 mg/day dose for smoking cessation in subjects smoking ≥ 20 cigarettes per day. Forty smokers received 44 mg/day of transdermal nicotine for 4 weeks followed by 4 weeks of 22 mg/day. Of the 40 subjects enrolled, 38 (95%) completed the 4 weeks of 44 mg patch therapy and 36 (90%) completed the entire 8 weeks of patch therapy. Non-smokers at week 4 had a mean serum nicotine level of 23.4±11.7 ng/ml and cotinine of 152.2±87.3 ng/ml. Percent replacement was calculated by dividing the steady state level at week 4 by the baseline level while the subjects were smoking their usual number of cigarettes. Percent nicotine replacement for non-smokers at week 4 (while on 44 mg nicotine patch) averaged 158%±108.4, and for cotinine was 112.0±73.8. For nicotine, 33% of non-smokers at week 4 had ≤ 100% nicotine replacement and for cotinine 63% ≤ 100% replacement. Biochemically confirmed point prevalence smoking cessation rates were 65% and 55% at weeks 4 and 8 of patch therapy, respectively, and self-reported smoking cessation at 3 months was 50%. The most common effect was skin irritation at the patch site. A single subject was admitted for myocardial infarction following step-down from 44 to 22 mg of replacement nicotine. The subject was not smoking and the adverse event was deemed to be not related to the patch therapy. Sleep complaints were reported in 33% of subjects during the 44 mg phase. Other complaints were infrequent. We conclude that 44 mg per 24-h nicotine patch therapy in heavy smokers is safe, tolerable, and without significant adverse events.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)215-222
Number of pages8
Issue number3
StatePublished - Dec 1995


  • High dose transdermal nicotine therapy
  • Smoking cessation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology


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