Although many physicians have prescribed niacin, or vitamin B3, to treat high cholesterol levels, a recent study shows the compound may cause more problems than it prevents.
In its July 17 issue, the New England Journal of Medicine details a major clinical trial scientists conducted to explore the benefits of niacin in patients with hardened arteries. Researchers found it did slightly raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol in subjects but presented no apparent cardiovascular benefits.
In the study, researchers at Oxford gave half of the 26,000 study participants a pill composed of niacin and laropiprant, while providing the other half with a placebo.
According to Jane Armitage, senior author of the study and professor of clinical trials and epidemiology at Oxford, niacin intake also heightened the risk of dangerous side effects, such as increased blood sugar in diabetics, higher numbers of new diabetes diagnoses, and a proliferation of skin problems, gout, infections, diarrhea, excess bleeding and liver problems. These side effects led to several hospitalizations.
More notably, 9 percent more patients died when taking niacin compared to the control group. Although researchers note this percentage is not statistically significant, it represents a “deal breaker” to Dr. Donald Lloyd-Jones, who penned the editorial accompanying the study.
Researchers concluded niacin use is unlikely to create the effects for which doctors have prescribed it, such as increasing HDL cholesterol and reducing stroke and heart attack. They recommend any individuals currently taking niacin contact their physicians to discuss switching to statins, which have proven safer and more effective.
Constant discoveries in the medical field often uncover complications and dangers presented by commonly-prescribed medications. Although medical professionals do their best to provide the best care based on the information available to them, they must be held accountable when their recommendations lead to negative effects in their patients.
If you or a loved one have suffered as a result of an inappropriately prescribed medication, contact a DC medical malpractice attorney today to discuss legal options. Have you talked with your doctor regarding the safety of your medications?