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Nicotine patches no help in pregnancy

Wednesday March 12th, 2014

Pregnant women who are trying to stop smoking gain little from using nicotine patches, researchers have warned.

Nicotine replacement therapies are safe and have been proved effective in other groups of smokers, say researchers led by Dr Ivan Berlin of INSERM, Paris, France.

They measured the effect of 16 hour nicotine patches among pregnant smokers. Taking part in the study were 402 pregnant smokers of between 12 and 20 weeks' gestation, who smoked at least five cigarettes a day. Half were given nicotine patches and half placebo patches, until the baby's birth.

Just 5.5% of the women in the nicotine patch group gave up smoking completely - as confirmed by carbon monoxide breath tests - compared with 5.1% in the placebo group. The duration of smoking abstinence was similar in both groups, at 15 days. Babies in the nicotine patch group were slightly smaller at birth than in the placebo group (3,065g versus 3,015g).

Full results are published today (12 March) in the British Medical Journal. The authors conclude: "The nicotine patch did not increase either smoking cessation rates or birthweights despite adjustment of nicotine dose to match levels attained when smoking, and higher than usual doses."

Currently in England, 26% of women smoke in the year before their pregnancy and 12% smoke through to delivery. The rate is similar or higher in other high income countries.

Commenting on the findings, Dr Leonie Brose of the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, UK, says: "A much greater effort is still needed to identify, test, and deliver more effective treatments for pregnant smokers who struggle to quit."

Berlin, I. et al. Nicotine patches in pregnant smokers: randomised, placebo controlled, multicentre trial of efficacy. BMJ 12 March 2014; doi: 10.1136/bmj.g1622 [abstract]

Tags: Cancer | Childbirth and Pregnancy | Drug & Alcohol Abuse | Europe | Pharmaceuticals | UK News | Women’s Health & Gynaecology

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