Jonesin'

The Weird World of Nicorette Online

Friday, May 23, 2014 - 12:09 PM

(Mendhak/flickr)

So a funny thing happens when you quit smoking. While you may have stopped the physical act of inhaling cigarette smoke in order to feel the effects of nicotine, your body is still addicted to the stimulant.

Nicotine Replacement Therapies, or NRTs, are patches, gum, lozenges and, increasingly, e-cigarette water vapor devices, that are meant to wean the smoker off of nicotine. This is old news, obviously. But to me, two years after quitting smoking, the need for nicotine is my daily headline. I cannot quit the nic.

I tried the patch, and it gave me the type of nervous energy – paranoia, really – and cold clamminess of a serial shoplifter, always poised to walk through the security sensor exits. The gum worked okay. But then I Googled what can happen to your masseter muscles if you chew too much, and that was the end of that. Sucking on a regular sized Nicotine lozenge feels like harboring a chalky gumball criminal in my cheek.

The NRT that really got me, and it still has me, is the Nicorette Mini-Lozenge. It’s Tic-Tac small, discrete, and dissolves quickly. And, unlike its generic counterparts, Nicorette’s brand has what I can only describe as a “satisfying burn,” the familiar discomfort reminiscent of smoking a cigarette. The mini-lozenges were the only thing that got me to stop smoking for good. I don’t want to start smoking again, so I’m staying on them for now.

Other people have discovered the joys of the Nicorette mini-lozenge, too. So much so that they’re very hard to find these days. They’re no longer sold on popular online retailers, like Amazon, Target or Soap.com. And you can’t find them in stores in New York City. On a recent Saturday I took what I called a “long walk,” but was really an OTC drug run through Manhattan, from CVSs to Duane Reades, and back again. I went into eight different places before I finally found a pharmacist who had one pack of the 4 mg Nicorette mini-lozenges, hidden away behind the counter. “There have been supply problems,” she said. You don’t say!

 


 

The Nicorette company, owned by GlaxoSmithKline, is a behemoth. The Nicorette brand has been around for some 20 years. Their product has, according to them, helped millions of people quit smoking.

Despite the client base, the Nicorette company is very bad  at communicating with their customers, many of whom are woefully dependent on their products. Nicorette’s slogan, “Quit on Your Own Terms,” is a nice bit of inspirado. But, if you’re switching out one form of nicotine with another in order to quit smoking, you’re really quitting on Nicotine’s – or Nicorette’s – Terms.

Nicorette doesn’t have a general Facebook page, with the exception of Nicorette India. Nicorette’s verified Twitter account’s last tweet? February 5th, about CVS’s decision to stop carrying cigarettes. Their last interaction with Twitter users was February 6th. But, like with most products these days, users feel a need, and increasingly an expectation, to communicate with brands online. Particularly ones where they’re dependent on the product.

Search Twitter for Tweets to Nicorette, and you see that even though Nicorette has stopped interacting with its users, users haven’t stopped  asking questions that require answers.

 

 

 

 


 

Aside from my pharmacist friend’s comment that Nicorette’s having supply problems, whenever I searched online for any information about Nicorette from the company, I came up empty. No info from Nicorette. No answers from other people experiencing the same problems. That was until earlier this week, when I came across Nicorette South Africa’s website.

On the homepage of the website, you’ll see the notice that: “Please note that information in this website is intended for residents of South Africa only.” Trouble is the Internet is international. Fine to issue that declaimer, but people who want information – especially about a drug they’re relying on -- will go anywhere online to get it.

I was reading through this South Africa FAQ section, expecting it to be a standard FAQ section - how to use the product etc. - when I realized that all of the questions were user submitted. The answers are supplied by a not-totally-great English writer, a doctor by the name of "Dr. John." The answers are written like a Nigerian email scammer wrote them. 

How to stop smoking?

Dear Enquirer - quitting smoking is as challenging an endeavour as trying to quit any other drug of addiction/abuse - so DETERMINATION TO QUIT is number 1 on the list -- this determination must be fed by the knowledge that every drag on a cigarette pulls more than 4700 known toxins into your body - and at least 60 of these are carcinogens !! Number 2 on the list is to tell all your friends that you are quitting - and this helps to oblige you to get clean; number 3 is that you'll find help on the Nicorette website as to the role of nicotine replacement to assist in breaking free from the thousands of toxins in cigarette smoke. Then 4, internet has many helpful sites for quitting smoking - examine some of these. BUT do realise that you'll do your health and your finances a vast benefit by quitting poisoning yourself with cigarette smoke. Every best wish - dr. john.

 

Fine, how to stop smoking. Makes sense in the FAQ section for Nicorette. The response is weird, but fine. But then the seriousness of the questions, and the lack of help in the responses, got very, very bleak.

 

Hi DR John i just resently found out that im pregnant, will it be safe to use the patches to quit during this period? what are the effect to the baby if i continue to smoke while pregnant ?

Dear Lady - Thank you for your enquiries. Let me attempt to provide some responses that may be helpful to you. FIRSTLY - and most importantly: please realise that every drag on a cigarette draws more than 4700 known toxins into your body - and if pregnant, your developing baby gets these too !! Do PLEASE open & peruse this internet site for more information:http://www.babycenter.com/0_how-smoking-during-pregnancy-affects-you-and-your-baby_1405720.bc SECONDLY: there are no Nicorette patches currently available, and there will not be for several months at least; we await approval by the Medicines Control Council for new ‘Invisi-Patches’, but meanwhile all stock of the original patches has been totally sold out! The only Nicotine replacement that we can offer currently is the Nicorette Gum. However, we may not recommend the use of Nicotine Replacement medications during pregnancy/lactation by virtue of the regulations of the Medicines Control Council !! However your GP or your Obstetrician-Gynaecologist may certainly prescribe Nicotine Replacement medications for you to use (this could include the nicotine-only e-cigarette). I'm sure you believe, as I do, that no one is entitled to poison anyone else. You may be choosing to poison yourself with smoking but are you entitled to poison anyone else, particularly a new Life ?? So please discuss this matter urgently with your responsible healthcare practitioner! With every best wish to You and your new Baby - yours truly - dr. john..

can you use Nicorette quickmist if you have had a mild stroke in the last 3 months,mine was last Sunday

Dear Enquirer - Thank you for this enquiry - but as there is no Nicorette Quickmist available in South Africa -- [which is where your enquiry eventuated] -- I can but comment that if you can smoke after having had a stroke, then getting rid of the known more than 4700 toxins in tobacco smoke, must make the nicotine replacement medication mightily safer than smoking !! Do discuss with your own medical practitioner with regard to this matter - as stroke victims are always on fine knife-edge !! With every best wish - dr. john - for Johnson & Johnson In Cape Town, South Africa.

 

And then, there was this:

 

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Hi - and thank you for your comments. Best wishes - dr. john

 

Dr. John has many answers, but probably not the ones that the Nicorette company wants to rise to the top, just by virtue of the fact that they’re putting out no other communications to the public.  Of all companies, you’d think that one founded on the issue of breaking  addiction would have a communications strategy that, well, communicates. Particularly at a time where there’s a lot of public health attention focused on stopping smoking.

The Nicorette Mini Lozenge shortage has been going on in the New England region for the past three months, in my expert estimation. I’m whittling away at my supply. It’s become an “is it Sponge Worthy?” situation every time I think about having one. Soon I’ll be out, and I promised myself I wouldn’t buy any more packages from Ebay. I’ve stopped smoking but I’m still addicted to the cure.

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Comments [15]

Marcus from Perth

I suspect GSK are wary of impending law suits and have chosen to withdraw the product from the market.

I have been addicted to the lozenges for years now and my desire for Nicotine has actually increased - why wouldn't it - I can drip feed nicotine all day long with these things.

Many forums are starting to contain anecdotal reports of gum and teeth damage, gastro-intestinal issues, renal complaints and so on.

NRT products have not been subject to any form of testing or regulation the common wisdom being that they can only be an improvement on smoking (really?).

J&J/ GSK have basically found themselves in the very lucrative position of peddling a freely available unregulated highly addictive drug. Perhaps they have started to realise how dangerous it is and how exposed legally they might be? Would certainly explain their reticence to talk....

Feb. 11 2015 10:01 PM
CR from Brisbane

I'm also completely addicted first to nicabate then when these were recalled to nicorette. I've managed to find supplies from various places over the last year but seems they have finally run out. Now I'm using the gum which is really awful. I too didnt realise they were made by the same company. I rang Johnson and Johnson who distribute nicorette in Australia and they were reallt rude - just said there were delays in production. I find that strange as they seem to be able to produce all the other nrt medications - have u noticed how much gum there is. I also contacted Quit Smoking Victoria and they said there were other products I coukd use grrr...not very sympathetic.

One of my theories is that they are trying to get people to use the new products like those film things and the mouth spray. Another theory - the lozenges are too effective and cigarette companies dont like it or their are health concerns with them.

Feb. 09 2015 07:58 AM
Tom Dowell from Queensland Australia

Great story and great comments , I too had a love affair with the 4 mg lozenge, finally something worked and I was no longer smoking. Everyone that I ever met that used the lozenges said they loved them and that they were now addicted to them.
If you stop to think about it for a moment, I believe that the success of the lozenge has been their own downfall, maybe someone chain "smoked" a lot of these little beauties, then got really, really sick, just a theory, who knows? Something scared GSK into stopping production.
I just had to go cold turkey, no smokes, no NRT, just quit, wow the first time you realize you are finally free is amazing.
The funny thing was it was heaps easier to quit than I had /and others with vested interests led me to
believe.
Whatever is being provided for you by outside interests/ companies/ governments, can be taken away from you. Good Luck Everyone.

Jan. 26 2015 01:54 PM
Mitch Slot from Long Island, NY, USA

Wow, I'm not alone in my Nic minis addiction! If you're like me at all, you probably can relate to this little tidbit. I've been somehow keeping it going for these past months by sheer determination, assertiveness, desperation and dumb luck. I know what it's like to stop at several CVS's, Walgreens, Rite-Aids, etc....on my usually futile hunting expeditions. But "oh the joy" when i hit paydirt and am digging deep to come up with the $150 USD to pay for the last 3 packs of 4mg mini's on the shelf!!! What a feeling.....SCORE!!! But alas, all good things come to an end and I am only now dealing with the bleak reality that until they go back into production, I'm most probably looking at my last full 3 pack. Not depressed about it; just need to come to terms. Bottom line? I think it sucks that this huge company can't be honest with us and just tell us when, if ever, they will bring the mini's back to market. Like many, I've tried emailing them, only to get the same tripe, the same canned answers and the same dull vacant, glazed over eyes responses. So it looks like this is the end. Lastly, I know what it's like to over pay on ebay, like a nicotine junkie. Kinda sad if it wasn't so funny. Perhaps that should be reversed. I just don't have the energy. Sigh

Jan. 22 2015 10:03 PM
Max from Melbourne

After a little research I'm a little suss on the info the company provided. Somethings going on, too addictive? none of their other products have been affected all of which i can't stand, gum, spray, patches - Yuk!

Nicorette Canada have a Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/nicorettecanada

No new info but there are a few more comments re lozengers
________________________________________________________________
Rachel Katz‎Nicorette Canada
December 26, 2014 at 10:57am ·

Any chance Nicorettte lozenges will return in 2015?
Like · Comment · Share · 1

Nicorette Canada Hi Rachel, thanks for reaching out and apologies for the inconvenience. We’re working to get NICORETTE® lozenges back on shelves as quickly as possible. In the meanwhile, our product selector tool can help you find another product that’s right for you: http://www.nicorette.ca/support/product-match.
____________________________________________________________

Debbie Gangl‎Nicorette Canada
September 18, 2014 ·

Does anyone know when the lozenges ( especially the regular cherry ones) will return to store shelves or at least be available in Canada?
Like · Comment · Share · 16

Janet McBride likes this.

Nicorette Canada Hi Debbie, sorry for the inconvenience! We’re working to get NICORETTE® lozenges back on shelves as quickly as possible. In the meanwhile, our product selector tool can help you find another product that’s right for you: http://www.nicorette.ca/support/product-match. You’re doing amazing so far – keep it up and don’t forget, we’re here for you every step of the way!
September 24, 2014 at 8:27am

Ted Hughes I was told the same thing when I called months ago ,, quickly and soon ,, what does that mean a month or a year , ?
September 25, 2014 at 9:27pm

Janet McBride Wondering the same thing,I think you are letting a lot of people down.The other products dont work as well. Either you are bringing them back or not !!!!!!!
October 6, 2014 at 9:15am

Debbie Gangl They were kind of evasive when I called them, too. They first said they were looking for a new manufacturer, then said they were not making them anymore! At the end of the call they asked if I wanted to say anything, and I said "Bring back the lozenges!" !
October 6, 2014 at 9:20am

Ted Hughes I have changed to the thrive lozenges , about the same price , I don't like the gum ,, it loosens your teeth over time ..Nicorette Canada sucks for not providing their customers any relevant info on the cherry lozenges.
November 10, 2014 at 12:49pm

Nicorette Canada Hi Ted, sorry for the inconvenience this is causing. We’re working to get the NICORETTE® lozenges back on shelves as quickly as possible. In the meantime, you can click here to access a $5 coupon, valid on all NICORETTE® products: http://bit.ly/1l9Mmb2.
November 11, 2014 at 5:53am

Jan. 19 2015 07:05 AM
Steve from United States

Great article!

I live on the West Coast of the United States. We can still get the small mini-lozenges but Nicorette lozenges are gone. The generics are still available - in some places.

Does anyone know who long this shortage of lozenges will go on?

Dec. 16 2014 12:59 AM
Sarah bray from Sydney

Cool drops stopped me smoking. Back on again! Tried everywhere in Sydney, no answers. Thanks for nothing guys....

Dec. 05 2014 12:57 AM
Nick from Asia

I live in an Asian country and they ran out of lozenges at the start of the year. It's incredibly irresponsible of Glaxo to do this in my opinion without giving a timeframe on when the situation will be resolved.

Nov. 17 2014 11:03 PM
marty from Adelaide

Over the last couple of months in Adelaide, Australia I've noticed the supply of Nicorette Cooldrops getting less and less.. and now totally gone. Doing a search on this, I hadn't realised that Nicobate and Nicorette were the same brand (GSK makes both apparently).
How long does it take to "fix production issues"??

I've been using the lozenges for a while. I hate chewing the gum (especially as some brands taste like used socks), and that kick you describe is exactly why I use the lozenges. Arggh. Well, at least if I go back to gum maybe I can really quit nicotine :/

Oct. 11 2014 10:34 PM
Scott from Victoria

There is something very weird going on here. It isn't a manufacturing issue. That is clearly a lie. Nicorette and Nicabate have both pulled their lines. The fact that they are lying about it really disturbs me.

I can handle my nicotine dependence with the lozenges. Nothing else works for me. Without them, I am in trouble with quitting.

As I say, there is something else at work here. I hate to sound paranoid, but I wonder if they were too effective. I wonder if they have eaten into the cigarette comapanies' profits to the point where they stopped supplying the nicotine to these companies. They are also pushing their e-cigarettes pretty hard at the moment too.

Oct. 11 2014 08:46 AM
SL from Australia

Very amusing take on the situation - and so very true. I too loved (and now miss), that satisfying slow burn of the nicorette mini lozenges..... especially the 4mg variant. There was nothing quite like popping one of them during a slow, exasperating meeting.... ahhhhh.

Anyhow, since the shortage in Australia about 6 months ago, I switched to another brand of larger lozenge which disgusted me so much, I have actually quit the therapy altogether.... (so I am now off the NRT and cigarettes now). My partner is now reporting that she can't even get the alternate brand now. This is leaving a lot of vulnerable "quitters" very short on satisfying options.... they're either going to quit altogether (like me), or go back to the cigarettes (which have gone up to about $21 a pack of 20's in Oz!).

I wonder that is going on?

Sep. 13 2014 06:44 PM
martin from Wiltshire, UK

Hi guys. very interesting thread. Here in England all brands and sizes of lozenge are running out . Perhaps people are switching brands rather than trying gum etc. I am also about two years into my addiction to NRT, and experiencing severe sweats and headache using gum which doesnt seem to work as well. Are ecigs diverting all the supply? Does anyone know?

Sep. 10 2014 10:15 AM
GS from Houston, TX

5 to 6 months now that the minis (2 and4) have been unavailable. I e-mailed GSK in March and they said that there were manufacturing problems at the factory in the Carolinas and production was temporarily halted. Further investigation reveals thar there was a pill size and content problem being addressed (content?). No further word since then.
I, too, am hooked on the cure. I have been using generics from CVS, Walgreens and Kroger that are all made by the same company and are not as effective.

Aug. 01 2014 03:41 PM
Glenn Simpson from south australia

Very interesting story. I've also recently quit cancer sticks but have had trouble less with the nicotine addiction and more with the habit and feeling of drawing smoke into my lungs. This feeling is what was really addicted to. So the e-cig charged with nicotine has helped with that - the vapour gives you a similar hit. But what is helping me quit most of all is herbals. Get your hands on some lobelia, damiana and/or mugworts. Google "happy herb company" and search through herbal alternatives to nicotine. The active compound in lobelia - lobeline - actually inhibits nicotine from its receptor and replicates its opiate response in the brain, tricking the brain into feeling it has had a nicotine hit. Good luck and well written.

May. 30 2014 08:14 AM
Erika from Maine

http://www.nicorette.com/lozenge-shortage

May. 28 2014 09:19 AM

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TLDR is a short podcast and blog about the internet by Meredith Haggerty. You can subscribe to the TLDR podcast here. You can follow our blog here. I tweet @manymanywords and @tldr.

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