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J Lipid Res. 2013 Oct;54(10):2586-94. doi: 10.1194/jlr.R040592. Epub 2013 Aug 15.

Niacin, an old drug with a new twist.

Author information

1
Institute for Translational Medicine and Therapeutics, Departments of Pharmacology and Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA 19104.

Abstract

Niacin (nicotinic acid) has been used for decades as a lipid-lowering drug. The clinical use of niacin to treat dyslipidemic conditions is limited by its side effects. Niacin, along with fibrates, are the only approved drugs which elevate high density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDLc) along with its effects on low density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDLc) and triglycerides. Whether niacin has a beneficial role in lowering cardiovascular risk on the background of well-controlled LDLc has not been established. In fact, it remains unclear whether niacin, either in the setting of well-controlled LDLc or in combination with other lipid-lowering agents, confers any therapeutic benefit and if so, by which mechanism. The results of recent trials reject the hypothesis that simply raising HDLc is cardioprotective. However, in the case of the clinical trials, structural limitations of trial design complicate their interpretation. This is also true of the most recent Heart Protection Study 2-Treatment of HDLc to Reduce the Incidence of Vascular Events (HPS2-THRIVE) trial in which niacin is combined with an antagonist of the D prostanoid (DP) receptor. Human genetic studies have also questioned the relationship between cardiovascular benefit and HDLc. It remains to be determined whether niacin may have clinical utility in particular subgroups, such as statin intolerant patients with hypercholesterolemia or those who cannot achieve a sufficient reduction in LDLc. It also is unclear whether a potentially beneficial effect of niacin is confounded by DP antagonism in HPS2-THRIVE.

KEYWORDS:

cardiovascular; cholesterol; prostaglandin

PMID:
23948546
PMCID:
PMC3770072
DOI:
10.1194/jlr.R040592
[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article
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