What is Niaspan®?

Jacquelyn Gilchrist
Jacquelyn Gilchrist

Niaspan® is a brand name of prescription-strength niacin, or vitamin B3. It is taken to treat high cholesterol and triglyceride levels, which are types of fat. Niaspan® may also be taken to treat pellagra, which is a deficiency of niacin. This disease can be caused by malnutrition.

Niacin is naturally available through dietary sources, such as plants or animals. Some people may also take supplements that contain vitamin B3. Niaspan®, however, contains a much higher level of this nutrient. The tablets come in the form of an extended-release formula, which helps maintain consistent levels in the body.

Patients should take this tablet by mouth, swallowing it whole; it should not be crushed or broken. Niaspan® may be taken with a small meal at bedtime or in accordance with the prescribing doctor's instructions. If the patient is not taking the extended-release formula, Niaspan® may be taken two to three times daily.

In addition, it should be taken with a glass of cold water. Taking Niaspan® with a hot drink can increase the risk of certain side effects, such as flushing. Patients should also avoid consuming alcoholic beverages. This may not only increase the risk of flushing, it is also associated with liver damage.

Niaspan® may cause some side effects, such as mild dizziness. Patients who experience dizziness should take care to sit down or stand up slowly. It may also cause insomnia, muscle pain, and sweating or chills. Some people also experience nausea, diarrhea, and a warm or tingly feeling under the skin.

More serious side effects warrant immediate medical attention. An allergic reaction may cause respiratory problems, facial swelling, and hives. Other risks can include fainting, rapid or uneven heart beats, and feeling short of breath. Jaundice, weakness, and flu symptoms may also occur.

Patients should inform their doctors of all medical conditions they may have, including whether they are pregnant or breastfeeding. Diabetics will need to closely monitor their blood glucose levels and promptly inform their doctors if they notice abnormalities. People with liver or heart disease, gout, or ulcers may need an adjusted dose to safely take niacin. Allergies to aspirin, tartrazine, or niacin may also pose a concern.

Niaspan® may interact with other medications or supplements. Patients should inform their doctors if they take anticoagulants, diabetes drugs, or high blood pressure medication. People who plan to undergo surgery, including dental surgery, should inform the surgeon that they are taking prescription-strength niacin.

Medication is only one part of a three-pronged approach to address high cholesterol levels. Patients must also follow a low-fat diet as recommended by a doctor or nutritionist. In addition, regular aerobic exercise is essential for a successful treatment plan.

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