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Niacin Adds No Benefit for Statin Patients: Study

Taking the B vitamin didn't reverse or stall carotid artery disease

WEDNESDAY, Nov. 18 (HealthDay News) -- Taking the B vitamin niacin offers no additional benefit to seniors with coronary artery disease who are already prescribed cholesterol-lowering statin drugs, U.S. researchers say.

The 18-month study of 145 Baltimore-area men and women over age 65 found no measurable difference in arterial wall thickness reductions between those who took 1,500 milligrams a day of extended-release niacin plus a statin and those who took only a statin.

Researchers from the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine found the results were the same whether the patients took any of the three leading statin drugs: Lipitor (atorvastatin), Zocor (simvastatin) or Crestor (rosuvastatin).

Patients on the dual niacin/statin therapy had an average 5.4 cubic millimeter per month reduction in plaque buildup in the main neck (carotid) artery, compared with 4.0 cubic millimeters for those who took only a statin, which the study authors noted was not a statistically significant difference.

The study was scheduled to be presented Wednesday at the American Heart Association's annual meeting in Orlando, Fla.

"Our findings tell us that improved cholesterol levels from taking combination vitamin B niacin and statin therapy do not necessarily translate into observable benefits in reversing and stalling carotid artery disease," senior investigator and cardiologist Dr. Joao Lima said in a news release from Johns Hopkins. "This does not mean that niacin therapy may not have other cardiovascular benefits, but any such benefits are independent of reducing the amount of plaque buildup and patients should be aware of that," Lima explained.

"Our recommendation to physicians is that current national treatment guidelines, which recommend mainly statin therapy tailored to the severity of atherosclerosis for preventing arteries from reclogging and narrowing, appear to be sufficient and accurate for physicians and patients to follow," Lima added.

More information

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more about coronary artery disease.

-- Robert Preidt

SOURCE: Johns Hopkins Medicine, news release, Nov. 18, 2009

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