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Ann Intern Med. 2003 Dec 16;139(12):996-1002.

Varying cost and free nicotinic acid content in over-the-counter niacin preparations for dyslipidemia.

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  • 1University of Washington School of Medicine, Seattle, Washington, USA.



Nicotinic acid is an effective treatment for dyslipidemia, but the content of over-the-counter niacin is not federally regulated. As a result, patients may use preparations of over-the-counter niacin that do not contain free nicotinic acid.


To characterize the types, costs, and free nicotinic acid content of over-the-counter niacin preparations and to review literature on the use of over-the-counter niacin for dyslipidemia.


Commonly used over-the-counter niacin preparations (500-mg tablets or capsules) from the 3 categories of immediate-release, sustained-release, and no-flush were purchased at health food stores and pharmacies and from Internet-based vitamin companies. Pertinent literature on the use of over-the-counter niacin was obtained by searching PubMed.


For each preparation studied, the monthly cost of therapy (at 2000 mg/d) and the free nicotinic acid content (quantified by high-performance liquid chromatography) were reported.


On average, immediate-release niacin preparations cost 7.10 dollars per month, sustained-release preparations cost 9.75 dollars per month, and no-flush preparations cost 21.70 dollars per month. The average content of free nicotinic acid was 520.4 mg for immediate-release niacin, 502.6 mg for sustained-release niacin, and 0 for no-flush niacin.


No-flush preparations of over-the-counter niacin contain no free nicotinic acid and should not be used to treat dyslipidemia. Over-the-counter sustained-release niacin contains free nicotinic acid, but some brands are hepatotoxic. Immediate-release niacin contains free nicotinic acid and is the least expensive form of over-the-counter niacin.

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