Stay on the treatment of the nicotine patch to prevent a relapse, suggests a new study.

“The clear implication is that you shouldn’t give up, you should stay on the treatment with patch,” said Saul Shiffman, one of the study’s authors.

The study published in Addiction says that smokers must be ‘encouraged to persist with patch treatment if they lapse in to smoking,’

A nicotine patch works by releasing nicotine into the body through the skin. It is used as an aid in ‘nicotine replacement therapy’.

The U.S Food and Drug Administration approved nicotine replacement products (including gums and patches) in the 1990’s. The approval came after randomized clinical trials showed that participants who quit with the aid of such products were up to three times more likely to be successful.

People who have a ‘lapse’ give in to nicotine cravings when trying to quit are more likely to start smoking again.

Experts believe that a lot of people are unable to sustain their efforts of quitting in the long run.

“Patch can help overcome these lapses. We’re ignoring what could be a very important benefit of health treatment,” Shiffman told Reuters.

Shiffman and his colleagues examined the data from a trial of nicotine patches at eight sites across the country. More than 500 adults who were heavy smokers and wanted to quit, participated in the study. They received a supply of either active nicotine patches or drug placebo patches. Neither the subjects nor the study staff knew who received which type of patch.

The researchers found that nicotine patch users were more likely to abstain from smoking that rebound from a relapse than people who were on placebo.

By week 10, close to 10 % of active patch users reported abstaining from cigarettes for at least a week, versus between two and three percent of placebo users.

The research was funded by GlaxoSmithKline, which markets nicotine replacement therapy products. The study authors also act as consultants to the company and have a stake in efforts to develop new smoking-cessation.

More than 443,000 Americans die from smoking related diseases each year according to American Lung Association.

There have been other studies that claim nicotine replacement therapies do not work in ‘real world’ like the one conducted at the Harvard School of Public Health and the University of Massachusetts. This was a survey-based study that found that those who had used nicotine replacement products were just as likely to relapse as the ones who had given up without the use of these aids. A total of 787 adults, who had recently quit smoking, had participated in the survey.

“For smoking cessation, the optimal treatment combines the longer-acting nicotine patch with shorter-acting products like nicotine gum, nasal spray or lozenges,” said Dr. Alvin Strelnick, Chief of Community Health at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.