Blood test could tell how to quit smoking

Blood test could tell how to quit smoking

Do you want to quit smoking? Take a blood test. At least, according to a new research, the best way to break the habit is to understand how fast your body metabolises nicotine.

A group of researchers, in partnership with Perelman School of Medicine at Pennsylvania University, undertook a four-year-long study to understand better the effectiveness of two known pharmacotherapies relating to nicotine dependence—varenicline pill and nicotine patch.

Varenicline is a prescription medication marketed by Pfizer under the trade name Chantix in the United States and Champix in other countries. Used for treating nicotine dependence, the drug works as a partial antagonist of nicotine receptor that reduces cravings and decreases the pleasurable effect obtained from consuming tobacco products.

Nicotine patch, on the other hand, is a nicotine replacement therapy. Fashioned as a transdermal patch that releases nicotine in the body through skin, the primary goal of the therapy is to supply a dependent individual with nicotine through a safer or less harmful manner. This results in smoking cessation.

Researchers Caryn Lerman et al surveyed 1,246 smokers who expressed interest in quitting smoking over the span of 11 weeks. Their goal was to determine whether nicotine metabolite ratio (NMR) is a suitable genetically informed biomarker for identifying response to aforementioned pharmacotherapies.

The participants were randomly categorised according to their baseline NMR status (slow metaboliser or normal metaboliser) and further grouped into three; each was given a placebo pill and nicotine patch, a varenicline pill and a placebo patch, or a placebo pill and placebo patch.

Results revealed that participants with normal NMR status demonstrated favourable response to a varenicline pill while those with slow NMR status have favourably responded to nicotine patch. Take note that varenicline pill was effective for all participants under the normal and slow NMR categories. However, those with slow NMR status displayed more side effects to the varenicline pill.

Nonetheless, the results endorse blood testing to be part of an entire treatment regimen for individuals who want to quit smoking. In other words, instead of experimenting with or utilising different pharmacotherapies relating to nicotine dependence, individuals would first need to understand their respective NMR status by taking a blood test for them to identify the best specific pharmacotherapy that would work for them.

Further details of the research of Lerman et al are found in the article “Use of the nicotine metabolite ratio as a genetically informed biomarker of response to nicotine patch or varenicline for smoking cessation: a randomised, double-blind placebo-controlled trial” in the journal Lancet Respiratory Medicine. This is the first time that a biomarker was used to determine the effectiveness of varenicline pill and nicotine patch in smoking cessation.