TUESDAY, Nov. 15 (HealthDay News) -- Patients with cardiovascular disease who add niacin to the statin drug Zocor (simvastatin) to help lower their cholesterol get no additional clinical benefit, a new study finds.
Even though niacin appeared to increase HDL cholesterol -- the good cholesterol -- and decrease triglycerides, another type of fat in the blood, it did not reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke or death, the researchers found.
"The data we had previously on niacin was not very strong and mostly came from one very old study," said Dr. Robert Giugliano, from the cardiovascular medicine division at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, who was not involved with the study.
The report was published online Nov. 15 in the New England Journal of Medicine to coincide with the presentation of the findings at an American Heart Association meeting in Orlando, Fla.
Giugliano, who is author of an accompanying journal editorial, said the trial showed no benefit, but unexpectedly showed an increase in stroke. "Although that signal is not definite," he said.
The trial, called the Aim-High trial, was stopped in May, 18 months early because there was no proven benefit to niacin -- also known as vitamin B3 -- and an increased risk of stroke.
For the study, a team led by Dr. William Boden, a professor of medicine at the University of Buffalo in New York, randomly assigned more than 3,400 patients to receive high-dose, time-released niacin or a placebo. Patients in both groups took Zocor.
During an average follow-up period of three years, 16.4 percent of patients taking niacin had a heart attack, stroke, died from heart disease, were hospitalized or needed blocked arteries opened, compared with 16.2 percent of the patients receiving a placebo, the researchers found.
However, 1.6 percent of the patients taking niaci
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