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Nicotine replacement therapy (NRT) bought over the counter (OTC) appears to be largely ineffective for smoking cessation, which may be partially explained by poor adherence. We developed and evaluated the NRT2Quit smartphone app (for iOS) designed to improve quit attempts with OTC NRT by improving adherence to the medications.
This study was a pragmatic double-blind randomised controlled trial with remote recruitment through leaflets distributed to over 300 UK-based community pharmacies. The study recruited adult daily smokers (≥10 cigarettes per day) who bought NRT, wanted to quit smoking, downloaded NTR2Quit and completed the registration process within the app. Participants were automatically randomly assigned within the app to the intervention (full) version of NRT2Quit or to its control (minimal) versions. The primary outcome was biochemically verified 4-week abstinence assessed at 8-week follow-up using Russell Standard criteria and intention to treat. Bayes factors were calculated for the cessation outcome. Secondary outcomes were self-reported abstinence, NRT use, app use and satisfaction with the app.
The study under-recruited. Only 41 participants (3.5% of the target sample) were randomly assigned to NRT2Quit (n = 16) or the control (n = 25) app versions between March 2015 and September 2016. The follow-up rate was 51.2%. The intervention participants had numerically higher biochemically verified quit rates (25.0% versus 8.0%, P = 0.19, odds ratio = 3.83, 0.61–24.02). The calculated Bayes factor, 1.92, showed that the data were insensitive to test for the hypothesis that the intervention app version aided cessation. The intervention participants had higher median logins (2.5 versus 0, P = 0.01) and were more likely to use NRT at follow-up (100.0% versus 28.6%, P = 0.03) and recommend NRT2Quit to others (100.0% versus 28.6%, P = 0.01).
Despite very low recruitment, there was preliminary but inconclusive evidence that NRT2Quit may improve short-term abstinence and adherence among smokers using NRT. Well-powered studies on NRT2Quit are needed, but different recruitment methods will be required to engage smokers through community pharmacies or other channels.