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Can I Take Niacin With Other Cholesterol Lowering Medications?

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Updated December 15, 2012

Question: Can I Take Niacin With Other Cholesterol Lowering Medications?
Answer: If your cholesterol isn’t decreasing as fast as you would like it to, you may be tempted to take matters into your own hands, such as adding something as relatively inexpensive and easy to obtain as niacin. However, before adding niacin to your cholesterol-lowering arsenal, make sure that you consult with your healthcare provider.

It’s true that this combination can greatly improve all aspects of your lipid profile. Most other cholesterol-lowering agents on the market can impact all aspects of your cholesterol, however niacin is the only product on the market that can have the most impact on your HDL, or “good” cholesterol. However, if dosed too high, taking niacin with cholesterol-lowering drugs, such as statins or fibrates may produce some serious side effects – such as myopathies and elevated liver enzymes.

Additionally, while adding niacin can help improve your lipid profile, it could also worsen certain medical conditions, including:

  • blood sugar control in diabetics
  • gout
  • peptic ulcer disease
Although niacin can be a good way to improve your lipid profile, just because it is available over-the-counter doesn't mean it is safe to take without medical guidance. Why? Taking niacin effectively and safely is tricky - the wrong forms of niacin really don't help cholesterol, and may be dangerous.

Many healthcare providers are open to discussing with you your options for lowering cholesterol, and niacin is often included among those options. Talk to your healthcare provider regarding your desire to add niacin to your cholesterol-lowering regimen in order to avoid potential problems down the road.

Sources:

Third Report of the National Cholesterol Education Program (NCEP) Expert Panel on Detection, Evaluation, and Treatment of High Blood Cholesterol in Adults (PDF), July 2004, The National Institutes of Heath: The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

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