Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Niacin and Heart Disease: Prescriptions Rise, But Evidence Lacks

Cholesterol plaque in artery (atherosclerosis): Top artery is healthy. Middle & bottom arteries show plaque formation, rupturing, clotting & blood flow occlusion.

 

Prescriptions for niacin have jumped in recent years, raising questions about whether the more than $900 million the United States now spends yearly on the vitamin is wise, given that it has failed to show benefits for preventing deaths from cardiovascular disease in the last two large clinical trials.

Use of niacin, also known as vitamin B3, nearly tripled over an eight-year period to reach almost 700,000 U.S. prescriptions monthly by the end of 2009, researchers found. Of all niacin prescriptions written that year, 80 percent were for Niaspan, slow-releasing tablets of niacin made by Abbott Laboratories.

"Our study shows that prescription niacin sales are substantial and growing, even in the absence of contemporary supportive trial evidence," that the vitamin lowers people's risk of dying from heart disease, the researchers wrote in their article, published today (June 10) in the Journal of American Medical Association.

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