Where can I buy the patch?
You can buy the nicotine patch without prescription from pharmacies and most supermarkets. You can also buy patches with a prescription from your doctor through the Pharmaceutical Benefit Scheme (PBS), which is cheaper.
There are two different types of patches sold in Victoria. There are 24 hour patches, which come in three strengths of 21 mg, 14 mg, and 7 mg of nicotine. Also, there are 16 hour patches that you only wear during the day, which come in three strengths of 15 mg, 10 mg and 5 mg of nicotine. The patches vary in size, with the bigger patches having higher doses of nicotine. You can also buy clear patches, which are less visible.
All 24 hour patches and the 15mg 16 hr patch are listed on the PBS. You can buy one 12 week course of patches through the PBS per year. To get the prescription, you must take part in a support program, such as that provided by the Quitline. Your doctor will give you a prescription that will last four weeks on your first visit, and then, on your second visit, two repeat prescriptions for a further eight weeks of patches. Remember to book your second appointment with your doctor before your first prescription runs out. In 2012, general patients pay $35.40 (PBS price) for each 4 week prescription and concession holders pay $5.80.
Patches bought over the counter cost between $5.00 and $7.80 each, depending on the size and brand of the patch (based on the recommended retail prices, as at August 2012). They are sold in packets of 7, 14 or 28 patches. Pharmacy and supermarket prices can be a few dollars lower or higher per packet.
Which strength of patch should I use?
In general, the product information recommends starting on the highest strength patch of a set - either the 15 mg 16 hour patch, or the 21 mg 24 hour patch. However, your pharmacist or doctor may recommend that you start on a lower strength patch based on your smoking habits, body weight or state of health.
Research shows that the 16 hour patch works as well as the 24 hour patch. However different people may prefer one type of patch over another, depending on whether they feel better with steady levels of nicotine day and night (24 hour patch), or lower levels of nicotine at night and in the morning (16 hour patch).