Cholesterol Drug Increases Risk of Bleeding, Ulcers and Stroke

Niaspan is a common medication prescribed to lower cholesterol. However, doctors suggest that Niaspan may not actually lower “bad” cholesterol enough to counteract the risk of several serious side effects.

In a large study published in the New England Journal of Medicine on July 17th, researchers from Oxford University in England found that patients taking niacin, which is commonly sold under the brand name Niaspan, could face increased risk of bleeding, ulcers and other serious side effects.

Researchers evaluated data on about 26,000 adults with vascular disease in Europe and China. The patients were given a combination of two grams of extended-release niacin and 40 milligrams of laropiprant or a placebo. Researchers followed up with patients over the course of four years.

Although patients who received the combo did have lowered LDL (bad cholesterol) and saw a rise in good cholesterol, but there was no effect on reducing rate of stroke, heart attack or chest pain. The drug combination also had negative side effects such as increased adverse events involving the gastrointestinal system, musculoskeletal system, skin and increased risk of infection and bleeding.

Patients were more likely to suffer bleeding, stomach ulcers, heartburn, diarrhea and infections than those on placebo. The study’s authors also indicate that patients on Niaspan are also nine percent more likely to die, although since few people in the study died, the rate of death is harder to measure.

The drug was also linked to a 32 percent increase in the risk of diabetes.

Niaspan is a prescription form of niacin, also widely available as a generic. Niaspan is known as vitamin B3 and is found in many foods and over-the-counter tablets.

Use of niacin tripled in the U.S. from 2002 to 2009, with approximately 700,000 Niaspan prescriptions being written each month in the U.S.

In 2011, researchers halted a study on Niaspan 18 months early after concerns of increased risk of side effects, including stroke, were raised. During the clinical trial, 27 patients given Niaspan suffered an ischemic stroke.

Another Niaspan study was stopped in 2013 following too many patients’ dropping out of the study due to muscle damage and skin problems. One-in-four of the 25,000 participants began developing muscle damage.

The authors concluded that millions of people are taking Niaspan and increasing their risk of suffering adverse events while not receiving the benefits they are looking for. They suggest Niaspan may continue to be used as an option for patients who are at high risk of cardiovascular disease but who have contraindications for taking statins. They do not recommend Niaspan use for the general population.

If you or a loved one suffered serious injury after taking Niaspan, you may be entitled to compensation for your damages. For more information, contact one of our Gacovino Lake attorneys at 1-800-246-HURT (4878).

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