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Unprecedented smoking cessation levels seen in alpha-1 patients

A new Irish study has found that a diagnosis of alpha-1 antitrypsin deficiency (AATD), regardless of severity, leads to long-term smoking cessation, with higher quit levels seen than among patients with lung cancer or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

The new research, conducted with the help of participants in the National AATD Registry at Beaumont Hospital, Dublin, found that just 2 per cent of smokers with the most severe type of AATD continued smoking after diagnosis, while 16 per cent of those with less severe types of the deficiency continued to smoke.

These figures contrast starkly with quit levels among smokers diagnosed with lung cancer or COPD, where large numbers of patients continue smoking, research shows.

The study findings coincide with updated figures from the national-targeted AATD screening programme, which began 15 years ago, and provide new insights into Ireland’s AATD population. Ireland has one of the highest rates in the world of AATD, a rare genetic disorder which can lead to COPD, liver disease, and premature death.

Dr Alessandro Franciosi, Clinical Lecturer at the RCSI — who carried out the research with Dr Tomás Carroll, Chief Scientist at the Alpha-1 Foundation Ireland and Senior Lecturer at the RCSI — told the Medical Independent that testing for AATD should be much more widespread in Ireland to prevent disease and should be offered to all patients diagnosed with COPD, as per World Health Organisation  guidelines.

With this mild form of the disorder, people are only at-risk of lung disease if they smoke.

According to Dr Carroll, the HSE’s national smoking cessation programme, which he describes as one of the best in the world, could be used to communicate this message to smokers, helping to prevent or postpone lung disease in high-risk smokers with AATD.

The research was presented at the recent Alpha-1 Foundation Conference in Dublin.

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