- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 11, 2004

NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Taking one drug to boost “good” cholesterol and another to lower its evil twin can slow the progression of heart disease more effectively than one medicine alone, a study has found.

The added benefits came from taking niacin, a type of B vitamin, on top of statins, the cholesterol-lowering drugs prescribed to millions of Americans and sold under such brand names as Lipitor and Zocor.

“This ushers in a new era of taking a two-pronged approach” to controlling cholesterol, said the study’s leader, Dr. Allen Taylor, director of Cardiovascular Research for the Cardiology Service of the Walter Reed Army Medical Center.

Separately, other research found that supplements of a different nutrient, vitamin E, not only didn’t help heart disease but seemed to make it worse.

Dr. Edgar Miller of Johns Hopkins University, who led the analysis, said people tend to think vitamin E will lengthen their lifespan, but the study seems to refute that.

Both studies were reported yesterday at an American Heart Association conference in New Orleans. The niacin study also was published in Circulation, the heart association’s medical journal.

Doctors said the niacin research could give them a new way to treat high cholesterol, a major risk factor for heart disease, strokes and other problems.

LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, has long been the focus of their efforts, and the ability of statin drugs to drop it almost overnight has made them the best-selling medications in America.

But attention increasingly is turning to HDL, or “good” cholesterol, which helps remove fats from the blood. Some research suggests it may matter as much as or even more than LDL in heart disease risk, and several companies are rushing to develop HDL-raising medications.

For decades, doctors have known that niacin can do this, but it causes a prickly hot sensation called “flushing” that many people find unbearable.

The new study used Niaspan, an extended-release, prescription niacin that causes less flushing. Its maker, Kos Pharmaceuticals, funded the work along with the Jackson Foundation for the Advancement of Military Medicine.

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