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Blood test could aid smoking cessation

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Measuring the rate at which a person breaks down nicotine in their system with a blood test could lead to more effective smoking cessation treatments, a study published in The Lancet Respiratory Medicine has suggested.

The study, performed by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania, analysed 1246 patients on smoking cessation courses, and found that 662 were slow metabolisers of nicotine, compared with 584 'normal' metabolisers of nicotine. The 1246 participants were then divided into three groups and were administered different types of smoking cessation aids.

Of these, 418 were given nicotine patches, 420 were given varenicline and 408 received a placebo pill. Varenicline is a non-nicotine drug, which is available only by prescription, due to side effects such as depression, hallucinations and suicidal thoughts.

The study found that varenicline was more effective in aiding smoking cessation than nicotine patches in people with 'normal' metabolism of nicotine. However, in those with slower nicotine metabolism rates, there was no difference in efficacy between nicotine patches and varenicline. The study's author's comment that 'treating normal metabolisers with varenicline and slow metabolisers with nicotine patches could optimise quit rates while minimising side-effects' of drugs such as varenicline.

Amanda Sandford, information manager at the charity Action on Smoking and Health, said: 'This is a very interesting study and could pave the way to individually tailored treatment in the future. It's also a reminder that there is no 'one size fits all' when it comes to smoking cessation interventions but smokers can substantially increase their chances of successfully quitting by getting professional support.'

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