Gene influences success of nicotine replacement therapy in smokers

October 17, 2013 / Washington University in St. Louis / — A gene that controls how quickly smokers process nicotine also predicts whether people who try to kick the habit are likely to respond to nicotine replacement therapy, a new study shows.

Researchers at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and the University of Minnesota also have found that the gene has very little impact on the success of treatment with the drug buproprion — commercially known as Zyban — an antidepressant that is used to help people stop smoking by reducing their cravings and other withdrawal effects.

“Smokers often struggle with cravings and withdrawal when stopping smoking.” said senior investigator Laura Jean Bierut, MD, professor of psychiatry. “This study gives us insights into who may respond to different types of smoking cessation medications so that we can improve the odds of quiting.”

About seven in 10 former smokers begin smoking again within three months of quitting. By one year, the number is close to nine in 10, even with the help of medication. The study is a step toward improving those odds by gaining a better understanding of the contributions of a person’s genetic makeup to nicotine dependence.