Researchers at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institue (NHLBI) says increasing the dose of niacin to patients with heart disease who are already taking a cholesterol-lowering statin does nothing more to prevent heart attacks and strokes.
The study may change the method of doctors treating millions of patients with cardiovascular disease.
The NIH has ceased a study with Abbott Laboratories' cholesterol fighter Niaspan 18 months early after results showed the drug wasn't successful in preventing heart attacks and may even have increased stroke risk.
The study trial enrolled 3,414 participants in the U.S. and Canada with a history of heart disease who were taking a statin drug to keep their LDL cholesterol low.
Niacin, or vitamin B3, is taken to assist a decrease blood levels of triglycerides and LDL, the so-called bad cholesterol. It is also used to boost levels of HDL, the so-called good cholesterol. Statins are drugs used to treat high cholesterol by limiting the body's production of it.
While it is commonly known that lowering the level of bad cholesterol with statins like Lipitor or Zocor reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, researchers were shocked to discover that when patients also took high dose, extended-release niacin, there was no additional drop in heart disease or stroke.
However, some said they wouldn't discard their longstanding belief in targeting HDL.
Some Doctors say Niaspan has few good traits, such as its benefit in raising HDL. They still think it assists in reducing the risk of heart attacks, especially for patients who are intolerant to statins. Doctors also say Niaspan decreases the risk of pancreatitis.
Approximately one out of seven Americans have high blood cholesterol, a main risk factor in heart disease, which kills some 800,000 people in the United States annually.