NIH: Taking Niacin Does Not Prevent Heart Problems

Giving a high dose of niacin to people with heart disease who are already taking a cholesterol-lowering statin does nothing more to prevent heart attacks and strokes, U.S. government researchers said on Thursday.

The findings came from a large, government-funded clinical trial that was stopped 18 months early because there was no sign that high-dose niacin reduced heart problems in people on statins whose low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, the so-called "bad" cholesterol, was already well-controlled.

Patients in the study were treated with Abbott Laboratories' Niaspan and Merck & Co Inc's Zocor, a statin available generically as simvastatin.

Researchers said niacin raised levels of high-density lipoproteins, or HDL, the "good" cholesterol, but that did not translate into fewer fatal and non-fatal heart problems.

"Although we did not see the expected clinical benefit, we have answered an important scientific question about treatment for cardiovascular disease," Dr. Susan Shurin, acting director of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health, said in a statement.

Niacin, also known as Vitamin B3, has long been known to raise HDL and lower triglycerides, another type of blood fat that raises heart risks.