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Clin Chem. 2002 Sep;48(9):1460-71.

Simultaneous analysis of nicotine, nicotine metabolites, and tobacco alkaloids in serum or urine by tandem mass spectrometry, with clinically relevant metabolic profiles.

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  • 1Drug Laboratory, Department of Laboratory Medicine & Pathology, Mayo Clinic, 200 1st St. SW, Rochester, MN 55905, USA.



Assessment of nicotine metabolism and disposition has become an integral part of nicotine dependency treatment programs. Serum nicotine concentrations or urine cotinine concentrations can be used to guide nicotine patch dose to achieve biological concentrations adequate to provide the patient with immediate relief from nicotine withdrawal symptoms, an important factor in nicotine withdrawal success. Absence of nicotine metabolites and anabasine can be used to document abstinence from tobacco products, an indicator of treatment success.


The procedure was designed to quantify nicotine, cotinine, trans-3'-hydroxycotinine, anabasine, and nornicotine in human serum or urine. The technique required simple extraction of the sample with quantification by HPLC-tandem mass spectrometry.


The procedure for simultaneous analysis of nicotine, its metabolites, and tobacco alkaloids simultaneously quantified five different analytes. Test limit of quantification, linearity, imprecision, and accuracy were adequate for clinical evaluation of patients undergoing treatment for tobacco dependency. The test readily distinguished individuals who had no exposure to tobacco products from individuals who were either passively exposed or were abstinent past-tobacco users from those who were actively using a tobacco or nicotine product.


Nicotine, cotinine, trans-3'-hydroxycotinine, nornicotine, and anabasine can be simultaneously and accurately quantified in either serum or urine by HPLC-tandem mass spectrometry with imprecision <10% at physiologic concentrations and limits of quantification ranging from 0.5 to 5 micro g/L. Knowledge of serum or urine concentrations of these analytes can be used to guide nicotine replacement therapy or to assess tobacco abstinence in nicotine dependency treatment. These measurements are now an integral part of the clinical treatment and management of patients who wish to overcome tobacco dependence.

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