Therapeutic advances in cardiovascular disease

The facts behind niacin.

PMID 21893559


Although low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) lowering represents the mainstay of current lipid treatment, high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) has generated increasing interest as a secondary therapeutic target because of strong evidence that serum HDL-C concentration is inversely associated with coronary heart disease risk. Niacin is a lipid-altering drug that has been used to lower cholesterol since the 1950s. In addition to its LDL-C-lowering effects, niacin is the most effective agent currently available for raising HDL-C. Despite its long history as a lipid-altering drug, only limited data are available regarding its clinical benefit alone and in combination with other agents, and the majority of studies investigating its impact on clinical outcomes are from the pre-statin area. Several studies have demonstrated a beneficial effect of treatment with niacin in combination with statin therapy on surrogate cardiovascular markers (e.g. carotid intima-media thickness). However, the clinical significance of these surrogate markers has been questioned. Two large randomized trials will address whether niacin-statin combination therapy is an appropriate therapeutic alternative to statin monotherapy.