Issue: 2004 > July/August > review

Increasing HDL cholesterol with extended-release nicotinic acid: from promise to practice

R.S. Birjmohun, B.A. Hutten, J.J.P. Kastelein, E.S.G. Stroes


Background: The inverse relation between high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C) and cardiovascular (CV) disease underscores the need for clinical evaluation of the effect of HDL-C increasing drugs on the prevalence of CV disease.
Methods: We review the efficacy of Niaspan on serum lipids and the occurrence of side effects either alone or in combination with statins, in randomised controlled trials (RCT) and comparative cohort trials (CCT).
Results: In four RCTs, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), triglycerides (TG) and lipoprotein(a) (Lp(a)) were decreased by 13, 26, and 17%, respectively, whereas HDL-C increased by 18%. In four CCTs a combination of Niaspan and statins showed an additional 22% reduction in LDL-C, 8% in TG and 6% in Lp(a) levels, compared with Niaspan monotherapy. Statin therapy had a minor additional effect of 1% on a total of 25% HDL-C increase during Niaspan treatment. Flushes occurred in 69% of the patients without any additional toxicity during combination therapy.
Conclusion: Niaspan effectively raises HDL-C with concomitant beneficial effects on TG and LDL-C. Niaspan can be combined safely with statins and is also effective in patients with combined dyslipidaemia and type 2 diabetes mellitus. Trials on CV endpoints evaluating the effect of statins with Niaspan are urgently needed to settle whether this combination can confirm the high expectations for cardiovascular outcome.