High cholesterol is one of the most common medical conditions for patients in the United States, and the market for medication to treat the condition is a multibillion dollar industry. Many doctors attribute at least part of the uptick in high cholesterol, or hypercholesterolemia, to poor diet and nutrition, alcohol consumption, and family genetics. The supersized diet popular in the United States has led to a marked increase in high cholesterol cases which, left untreated could result in cholesterol deposits in major arteries, ultimately leading to heart attack and stroke. The Center for Disease Control claims that one in every six Americans is diagnosed with hypercholesterolemia, making the quest to find a viable cure an urgent one at the very least.
There are a variety of treatments on the market for hypercholesterolemia, including statins like Lipitor and Crestor. Statins, according to the Mayo Clinic, block a substance in the body that is necessary to make cholesterol. In addition, the hospital notes that the medication may also help your body “reabsorb cholesterol that has built up in plaques on your artery walls, preventing further blockage in your blood vessels and heart attacks.” According to the latest study, the problems arise when niacin is added to a patient’s usual statin.
Niacin is another name for Vitamin B3, just as Riboflavin is Vitamin B2, among other common organic compounds that are essential nutrients for the human body. The compound has long been prescribed as a supplement to the statins to raise HDL, or “good cholesterol” in the body, and lower LDL, or “bad cholesterol” levels. For years, the only known widely reported side effect from niacin was flushing of the skin, which can be unsightly and uncomfortable for patients. Drug manufacturers then began adding anti-flushing medications to compounds to neutralize the niacin side effects and appease patients.
Numerous recent studies have actually provided significant evidence that the addition of niacin to a patient’s statin regimen does little to nothing to improve levels of HDL or lower levels of LDL. They did, however, uncover some highly dangerous side effects. Tredaptive, a drug produced by Boston-based Merck & Co. was featured in one of the studies.
Niacin side effects
• Increase in the risk of death (up 9%)
• Gastrointestinal issues • Muscular problems • Infections • Bleeding, in some cases very serious • Development of diabetes (32% of subjects in one trial alone)
• Patients with preexisting diabetes reported losing control of their blood sugar
(Source: Huffington Post and Forbes)
Researchers and care providers found the results in the study to be serious enough to recommend doctors to stop prescribing niacin to their patients. According to Donald-Lloyd Jones, who wrote the accompanying editorial to the New England Journal of Medicine report on the finds explained in no uncertain terms:
What now should we make of niacin and the HDL cholesterol causation hypothesis? On the basis of the weight of available evidence showing net clinical harm, niacin must be considered to have an unacceptable toxicity profile for the majority of patients, and it should not be used routinely (via Forbes).
Merck has stopped seeking market approval for Tedaptive in the United States, and has warned doctors around the world to stop prescribing the drug. According to Yale University cardiologist Dr. Harlan Krumholz, the results of several studies done on niacin, “leave little doubt that this drug provides little if any benefits and imposes serious side effects.”
As with any medication, physicians always advise speaking with work primary care provider before changing a dosage or stopping medication altogether. There are a wide range of options available as an alternative to niacin.
Alternative Cholesterol Treatments and Lifestyle Changes
• Careful changes to diet and nutrition with the help of a dietician • Exercise
• Quitting smoking • Statins like Lipitor and Crestor
• Bile-acid-binding resins • Cholesterol absorption inhibitors
• Combination cholesterol absorption inhibitor and statin (Source: The Mayo Clinic)
Talk to your doctor about the best course of action, because according to Dr. Krumholz, “This drug can hurt you.” If you or someone who know suffered serious side effects as a result of take niacin, you are urged to contact an attorney right away. At the Greater Boston Law Firm of Altman & Altman, LLP, our dedicated team of Massachusetts Personal Injury Attorneys have decades of experience helping victims of even the most complex pharmaceutical cases. We will look into every detail of your case and will explore every legal avenue available in order to deliver legal representation of the highest quality.
At the law offices of Altman & Altman, we are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week – including nights and weekends to answer any questions regarding your case. Call us today to schedule a free initial consultation and case evaluation.
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