It is unclear if genetic variants affect smoking cessation treatment response. This study tested whether variants in the cholinergic receptor nicotinic alpha 5 subunit (CHRNA5) predict response to smoking cessation medication by directly comparing the two most effective smoking cessation pharmacotherapies. In this genotype-stratified randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial (May 2015–August 2019 in St Louis, Missouri), smokers were randomized by genotype in blocks of six (1:1:1 ratio) to three conditions: 12 weeks of placebo (n = 273), combination nicotine patch and lozenge (combination nicotine replacement therapy, cNRT, n = 275), or varenicline (n = 274). All participants received counseling and were followed for 12 months. The primary end point was biochemically verified 7-day point prevalence abstinence at the end of treatment (EOT, week 12). Trial registration and eligibility criteria are on clinicaltrials.gov (https://clinicaltrials.gov/) (NCT02351167). We conducted the genetic analyses separately for 516 European ancestry (EA) smokers and 306 non-EA smokers (including 270 African American smokers). In African American smokers, there was a genotype-by-treatment interaction for EOT abstinence (χ2 = 10.7, degrees of freedom = 2. P = 0.0049): specifically, cNRT was more effective in smokers with rs16969968 GG genotype than was placebo, while varenicline was more effective in smokers of GA/AA genotypes. In EA ancestry smokers, there was no significant genotype-by-treatment interaction. In the whole sample, although both were effective at EOT, only varenicline, and not cNRT, was significantly effective relative to placebo at 6-month follow-up. Importantly, this study suggests that genetic information can further enhance smoking cessation treatment effectiveness.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1315-1325
Number of pages11
JournalClinical pharmacology and therapeutics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 2020


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