Nicotine replacement therapy is an effective and proven therapy in helping smokers to quit

01 January 2012

Return to Media Release Index

The Australian Self-Medication Industry (ASMI), the industry body representing non-prescription consumer healthcare products today strongly advocated that nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) is, and remains, a proven effective therapy in helping smokers to quit.

The Executive Director of ASMI, Dr Deon Schoombie, said that the vast body of evidence proves NRT is effective in helping to reduce smoking versus unaided quit attempts. The most recent Cochrane review concluded that NRT almost doubles the success rate of long-term abstinence versus cold turkey.1

"The strongest available evidence suggests that NRT improves a patient's chances of quitting the smoking habit, and is more effective than quitting without support," Dr Schoombie said.

NRT has been the subject of hundreds of clinical trials involving thousands of patients over more than three decades and has helped millions of people to overcome their addiction to tobacco.*

ASMI was responding to comments on a survey into the effectiveness of NRT conducted by the Harvard School of Public Health, and published in Tobacco Control.

"The author of the Harvard study notes that his own survey findings contrast with the results of clinical studies which have demonstrated NRT's success," Dr Schoombie said.
Adverse comments about the effectiveness of NRT in the media appear to be based largely on anecdotal evidence and this single study, which is contrary to the overwhelming body of evidence demonstrating NRT's efficacy over quitting cold turkey. NRT has been proven in numerous robust formal studies in clinical settings, which have been reviewed by the TGA, in order to successfully register these products for sale on the Australian market.

"It is worth remembering that the use of NRT was one of the key recommendations contained in the 2009 report of the Federal Government's National Preventative Health Taskforce. The use of NRT alongside support such as telephone help services is a key way of addressing one of Australia's most costly and debilitating health problems," Dr Schoombie said.

NRT has been proven both overseas and locally to be a cost efficient vehicle to curb the significant health care costs associated with smoking-related diseases. This perspective is supported by David Currow, CEO of NSW Cancer Institute, who said: "the Federal Government's $9m investment per year is a drop in the bucket compared to the $80b that smoking costs the Australian community." He says the $9m (on PBS subsidisation of NRT) is money well spent and anything that helps people quit has to be good.
The safety profile and efficacy of NRT was re-examined by the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) ahead of its recent decision to extend benefits to certain patients under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme (PBS) as part of a smoking cessation program.

The role of NRT as a front line treatment prescribed by GPs and recommended by pharmacists for smoking cessation is also supported by the National Prescribing Service, and it is endorsed by the World Health Organization.

"We know that most smokers make several attempts to quit, so it is important that they have access to products and support services that will optimise their chances of success. NRT is a clinically proven therapy that reduces withdrawal symptoms associated with smoking and is helping millions of smokers worldwide," Dr Schoombie said.
About ASMI: The Australian Self-Medication Industry (ASMI) is the peak industry body for the Australian self care industry representing consumer healthcare products including over-the-counter medicines and complementary medicines. ASMI's mission is to promote better health through responsible self-care. This means ensuring that safe and effective self-care products are readily available to all Australians at a reasonable cost. ASMI works to encourage responsible use by consumers and an increasing role for cost-effective self-medication products as part of the broad national health strategy.

Media contact: Bob Bowden, Foresight Communications (02) 9241 2811, 0412 753 298


1 Stead LF, Perera R, Bullen C, Mant D, Lancaster T. Nicotine replacement therapy for smoking cessation, Review 2008, Issue 1, Art.No: CD000146. DOI:10.1002/14651858.CD000146.pub3.
2 *Cochrane Review 2008