Warning on skin patches

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The Independent Online
HEALTH experts are warning smokers who want to quit not to buy unlicensed nicotine skin patches being sold by mail order, writes Liz Hunt.

The warning follows claims that unlicensed patches have not been tested by regulatory bodies and contain smaller amounts of nicotine than the three licensed brands. Dr Martin Jarvis and colleagues at the National Addiction Centre, London, say that the mail-order patches are 'essentially placebos'. Tests showed that in some patches there was little or no absorption of nicotine through the skin into the blood stream. In a letter in the British Medical Journal, they say that the Medicines Control Agency, which licenses drugs, is partly to blame: '. . . for years it (the MCA) has tolerated the marketing of other nicotine-containing products of unproved value or quality without licence'.

Dr Jarvis and his colleagues tested several mail-order patches, including those under the names Nicorene, Nicotine Patch, Nicocheck, Nicoban, and Nicostop. The strongest of these, Nicostop, contained 4mg of nicotine compared with values ranging between 25mg and 100mg in the licensed patches. He concludes that the marketing of patches of dubious quality and efficacy 'could bring discredit to a new approach to stopping smoking that seems to be of great potential benefit'. The licensed patches are Nicabate, Nicorette and Nicotinell.

The duty on cigarettes will be raised substantially in the Budget to curb consumption, Virginia Bottomley, the Secretary of State for Health, hinted yesterday. But she rejected a Commons select committee report supporting a ban on advertising.