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Niacin May Be Toxic and Too Risky As Heart Drug, Reports Find

NBC news reports that the B3 vitamin, Niacin, often found in over-the-counter tablets, may cause severe negative side effects and may actually fail to reduce rates of stroke, heart attack, or chest pain.

Several studies have shown that Niacin can lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad cholesterol”) while raising high-density lipoprotein (HDL or “good cholesterol”). However, more recent studies found that the overall harm of the drug may outweigh any benefit.

One study involving more than 25,000 subjects in Europe and China showed that people ingesting Niacin in addition to their standard cholesterol treatment did have lower LDL’s, but also that Niacin was linked to a 32% increase in the rate of diabetes over four years. Additionally, some subjects suffered dangerous health consequences, including gastrointestinal, musculoskeletal, and skin-related adverse events. The study also revealed an array of severe negative side effects, such as bleeding, stomach ulcers, heartburn, and diarrhea. Further findings showed that people who took Niacin had slightly more serious infections (8%) as people who did not take the drug (6.6%). The researchers at Great Britain’s Oxford University published these findings in the New England Journal of Medicine.

In a confirmation letter to the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Todd Anderson of the Libin Cardiovascular Institute in Calgary, Canada stated that his analysis of an earlier study demonstrated similar side effects. Another doctor, Dr. Donald Lloyd-Jones from the Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, wrote a commentary on the recent study, concluding that “on the basis of the weight of available evidence showing net clinical harm, Niacin must be considered to have an unacceptable toxicity profile for the majority of patients.”

Nearly 70 million Americans have unhealthy cholesterol levels. Reports show that from 2002 to 2009, the use of Niacin has tripled. It is speculated that every month doctors write almost 700,000 prescriptions of the prescription version of Niacin (Niaspan®), which amounts to approximately $800 million a year in sales for the pharmaceutical companies.


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