Scientists promise personalised nicotine withdrawal treatment

In collaboration with the Press Association

US scientists have developed a blood test to predict how hard smokers will find it to quit smoking, and say this could lead to bespoke treatment for individual needs.

The test measures the rate at which nicotine is broken down in the body, and uses this to calculate how long it will take before an individual craves nicotine again.

Faster nicotine breakdown is associated with both more extreme cravings and greater difficulty giving up smoking using a normal nicotine patch.

"The ultimate aim here is to distinguish smokers who are likely to benefit from a standard dose of nicotine patch from those who may need a higher dose patch or an alternative therapy in order to succeed in quitting," said lead researcher Dr Lerman.

The study enrolled 480 smokers onto an eight week course. They were supplied with either nicotine patches or nasal sprays as they attempted to give up.

They were breath tested for tobacco smoke at the end of the eight week course and once again during a six-month follow up. They also supplied details of their cravings during the study.

"Using the rate of nicotine metabolism, we were able to predict the level of cravings and the efficacy of the nicotine patch," said Dr Lerman.

"Similar results could not be obtained for the nicotine spray, most likely because the subjects were able to compensate for rapid metabolism of nicotine by using the spray more often."

Ultimately, researchers hope to develop the blood test into a non-invasive urine or saliva-based test.

The study was carried out by the Abramson Cancer Centre at the University of Pennsylvania and published in the June issue of the Journal of Clinical Pharmacology and Therapeutics.

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