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All about: nicotinic acid

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Generic Name: niacin (nicotinic acid) (NYE a sin (NIK oh TIN ik AS id))
Brand Names: B-3-50, B3-500-Gr, Niacin SR, Niacor, Niaspan ER, Nico-400, Nicobid Tempules, Nicolar, Slo-Niacin

What is niacin?

Niacin, also called nicotinic acid, is a B vitamin (vitamin B3). It occurs naturally in plants and animals, and is also added to many foods as a vitamin supplement. Niacin is also present in many multiple vitamins and nutritional supplements.

Niacin is used to treat and prevent a lack of natural niacin in the body, and to lower cholesterol and triglycerides (types of fat) in the blood. It is also used to lower the risk of heart attack in people with high cholesterol who have already had a heart attack. Niacin is sometimes used to treat coronary artery disease (also called atherosclerosis).

Niacin may also be used for purposes other than those listed in this medication guide.

What is the most important information I should know about niacin?

Do not take this medication if you are allergic to niacin, or if you have severe liver disease, a stomach ulcer, or active bleeding.

Niacin can cause certain side effects, such as flushing (warmth, itching, redness, or tingly feeling under your skin). These effects should disappear over time as you keep taking the medication.

To reduce these side effects, your doctor may suggest you take aspirin or a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) 30 minutes before your niacin dose. NSAIDs include ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn), ketoprofen (Orudis), and others. Do not take aspirin or an NSAID with niacin unless your doctor has told you to.

Avoid getting up too fast from a sitting or lying position, or you may feel dizzy. Get up slowly and steady yourself to prevent a fall.

Avoid taking colestipol (Colestid) or cholestyramine (Locholest, Prevalite, Questran) at the same time you take niacin. If you take either of these other medications, take them at least 4 to 6 hours before or after you take niacin.

Niacin is only part of a complete program of treatment that may also include diet, exercise, weight control, and other medications. Follow your diet, medication, and exercise routines very closely.

What should I discuss with my healthcare provider before taking niacin ?

Do not take this medication if you are allergic to niacin, or if you have severe liver disease, a stomach ulcer, or active bleeding.

Before taking niacin, tell your doctor if you are allergic to any drugs, or if you have:

  • liver or kidney disease;
  • heart disease or uncontrolled angina (chest pain);

  • a stomach ulcer;

  • diabetes;

  • gout; or

  • a muscle disorder such as myasthenia gravis.

If you have any of these conditions, you may not be able to use niacin, or you may need dosage adjustments or special tests during treatment.

FDA pregnancy category C. Niacin may be harmful to an unborn baby when the medication is taken at doses to treat high cholesterol or other conditions. Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant during treatment. Niacin can pass into breast milk and may harm a nursing baby. Do not use this medication without telling your doctor if you are breast-feeding a baby.

How should I take niacin ?

Take this medication exactly as it was prescribed for you. Do not take the medication in larger amounts, or take it for longer than recommended by your doctor. Follow the directions on your prescription label.

Niacin is sometimes taken at bedtime with a low-fat snack. Follow your doctor's instructions.

Niacin can cause certain side effects, such as flushing (warmth, itching, redness, or tingly feeling under your skin). These effects should disappear over time as you keep taking the medication.

To reduce these side effects, your doctor may suggest you take aspirin or a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) 30 minutes before your niacin dose. NSAIDs include ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn), ketoprofen (Orudis), and others. Do not take aspirin or an NSAID with niacin unless your doctor has told you to. Take niacin with a full glass of cold or cool water. Taking the medication with a hot drink may increase your risk of side effects such as flushing. Do not crush, chew, break, or open an extended-release tablet or capsule. Swallow the pill whole. It is specially made to release medicine slowly in the body. Breaking or opening the pill would cause too much of the drug to be released at one time. Niacin extended-release tablets and capsules contain higher strengths of the medicine than the regular niacin tablets. Take only the dose that is correct for the type of niacin tablet or capsule you are using.

Niacin can cause you to have unusual results with certain medical tests (urine tests). Tell any doctor who treats you that you are using niacin.

If you stop taking niacin for any length of time, talk with your doctor before starting the medication again. You may need to restart the medication at a lower dose.

Niacin is only part of a complete program of treatment that may also include diet, exercise, weight control, and other medications. Follow your diet, medication, and exercise routines very closely.

To be sure this medication is not causing harmful effects, your blood will need to be tested on a regular basis. Your kidney or liver function may also need to be tested. Do not miss any scheduled visits to your doctor.

Store niacin at room temperature away from moisture and heat.

What happens if I miss a dose?

Take the missed dose as soon as you remember. Be sure to take the missed dose with food if you normally take your niacin dose with a meal or snack.

If it is almost time for your next dose, skip the missed dose and take the medicine at your next regularly scheduled time. Do not take extra medicine to make up the missed dose.

What happens if I overdose?

Seek emergency medical attention if you think you have used too much of this medicine.

Symptoms of a niacin overdose may include nausea, dizziness, itching, vomiting, upset stomach, and flushing.

What should I avoid while taking niacin ?

Avoid drinking alcohol. It can increase some of the side effects of niacin.

Avoid taking colestipol (Colestid) or cholestyramine (Locholest, Prevalite, Questran) at the same time you take niacin. If you take either of these other medications, take them at least 4 to 6 hours before or after you take niacin.

Avoid getting up too fast from a sitting or lying position, or you may feel dizzy. Get up slowly and steady yourself to prevent a fall.

Niacin side effects

Get emergency medical help if you have any of these signs of an allergic reaction: hives; difficulty breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat. Call your doctor at once if you have any of these serious side effects:
  • feeling light-headed, fainting;

  • fast, pounding, or uneven heart beats;

  • feeling short of breath;

  • swelling;

  • jaundice (yellowing of your skin or eyes); or

  • muscle pain, tenderness, or weakness with fever or flu symptoms and dark colored urine.

If you are diabetic, tell your doctor about any changes in your blood sugar levels.

Less serious side effects of niacin include:

  • mild dizziness;

  • warmth, redness, or tingly feeling under your skin;

  • itching, dry skin;

  • sweating or chills;

  • nausea, diarrhea, belching, gas;

  • muscle pain, leg cramps; or

  • sleep problems (insomnia).

Side effects other than those listed here may also occur. Talk to your doctor about any side effect that seems unusual or that is especially bothersome.

What other drugs will affect niacin ?

Tell your doctor about all other cholesterol-lowering drugs you are taking with niacin, especially atorvastatin (Lipitor), fluvastatin (Lescol), lovastatin (Mevacor), pravastatin (Pravachol), or simvastatin (Zocor).

Before taking niacin, tell your doctor if you are also using any of the following drugs:

  • a blood thinner such as warfarin (Coumadin);

  • multivitamins or mineral supplements that contain niacin;

  • blood pressure or heart medications such as amlodipine (Norvasc), diltiazem (Tiazac, Cartia, Cardizem), felodipine (Plendil), nicardipine (Cardene), nifedipine (Procardia, Adalat), nimodipine (Nimotop), nisoldipine (Sular), or verapamil (Calan, Covera, Isoptin, Verelan); or

  • heart medications such as doxazosin (Cardura), isosorbide (Dilatrate, Imdur, Isordil, Monoket, Sorbitrate), nitroglycerin (Nitro-Bid, Nitro-Dur, Nitrostat), prazosin (Minipress), or terazosin (Hytrin).

If you are using any of these drugs, you may not be able to use niacin, or you may need dosage adjustments or special tests during treatment.

There may be other drugs not listed that can affect niacin. Tell your doctor about all the prescription and over-the-counter medications you use. This includes vitamins, minerals, herbal products, and drugs prescribed by other doctors. Do not start using a new medication without telling your doctor.

Where can I get more information?

  • Your pharmacist has information about niacin written for health professionals that you may read.

  • Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use this medication only for the indication prescribed.
  • Every effort has been made to ensure that the information provided by Cerner Multum, Inc. ('Multum') is accurate, up-to-date, and complete, but no guarantee is made to that effect. Drug information contained herein may be time sensitive. Multum information has been compiled for use by healthcare practitioners and consumers in the United States and therefore Multum does not warrant that uses outside of the United States are appropriate, unless specifically indicated otherwise. Multum's drug information does not endorse drugs, diagnose patients or recommend therapy. Multum's drug information is an informational resource designed to assist licensed healthcare practitioners in caring for their patients and/or to serve consumers viewing this service as a supplement to, and not a substitute for, the expertise, skill, knowledge and judgment of healthcare practitioners. The absence of a warning for a given drug or drug combination in no way should be construed to indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective or appropriate for any given patient. Multum does not assume any responsibility for any aspect of healthcare administered with the aid of information Multum provides. The information contained herein is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. If you have questions about the drugs you are taking, check with your doctor, nurse or pharmacist.
Copyright 1996-2006 Cerner Multum, Inc. Version: 7.05. Revision Date: 07/13/2007 12:17:12 PM.

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