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Large new clinical study launched to study. . .niacin

Posted Oct 01 2008 8:26pm


Oxford University has issued a press release announcing plans for a new clinical trial to raise HDL cholesterol and reduce heart attack risk. 20,000 participants will be enrolled in this substantial effort. The agent? Niacin.

How is that new? Well, this time niacin comes with a new spin.

Dr. Jane Armitage, formerly with the Heart Protection Study that showed that simvastatin (Zocor) reduced heart attack risk regardless of starting LDL, is lead investigator. She hopes to prove that niacin raises HDL cholesterol and thereby reduces heart attack risk. But, this time, niacin will be combined with an inhibitor of prostaglandins that blocks the notorious "flushing" effect of niacin.

The majority of Track Your Plaque participants hoping to control or reverse coronary plaque take niacin. Recall that niacin (vitamin B3)is an extremely effect agent that raises HDL, dramatically reduces small LDL, shifts HDL particles into the effective large fraction, reduces triglycerides and triglyceride-containing particles like IDL and VLDL. Several studies have shown that niacin dramatically reduces heart attack. The HATS Study showed that niacin combined with Zocor yielded an 85-90% reduction in heart attack risk and achieved regression of coronary plaque in many participants.

In our experience, approximately 1 in 20 people will really struggle using niacin. Flushes for these occasional people will be difficult or even intolerable. Should Dr. Armitage's study demonstrate that this new combination agent does provide advantages in minimizing the hot flush effect, that will be a boon for the occasional Track Your Plaque participant who finds conventional niacin intolerable.

But you already have access to niacin, an agent with an impressive track record even without this new study. And you have a reasonably effective prostaglandin inhibitor, as well: aspirin. Good old aspirin is very useful, particularly in the first few months of your niacin initiation to blunt the flush.

Although this study is likely to further popularize niacin and allow its broader use, it's also a method for the drug companies to profit from an agent they know works but is cheap and available.

You don't have to wait. You already have niacin and aspirin available to you.

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