Lovastatin and Extended-Release Niacin Combination Product: The First Drug Combination for the Management of Hyperlipidemia

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Advicor (lovastatin and extended-release niacin) is the first cholesterol-lowering combination product to become available for the management of hyperlipidemia. Lovastatin significantly lowers low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, whereas niacin significantly lowers triglycerides and lipoprotein (a) and markedly increases high-density lipoprotein cholesterol. These effects are ideal for managing a variety of lipid disorders, including metabolic syndrome. Lovastatin and niacin reduce coronary heart disease mortality in primary and secondary prevention patients, respectively. The extended-release niacin component uses a unique technology to minimize adverse effects (e.g., flushing and hepatotoxicity) while retaining the same lipid-altering effects as immediate-release niacin. The combination product appears to be well tolerated, with discontinuation due to adverse effects other than flushing occurring in a similar percent of patients as for lovastatin in clinical trials. Approximately 9% of patients discontinued the combination product due to flush. No confined cases of myopathy or hepatotoxicity have been reported with this product. Once-daily dosing provides ease of administration that should improve compliance and result in a greater proportion of patients meeting their low-density lipoprotein cholesterol goals. The nomenclature surrounding niacin products used to treat dyslipidemias is confusing. While only two types of niacin formulations exist (immediate-release formulations and formulations which dissolve more slowly than immediate-release formulations), government regulations allow for slowly dissolved niacin formulations to be divided into two types of niacin products; those that are available over-the-counter (OTC) and those that are available by prescription only. Over-the-counter slowly dissolved niacin preparations are not classified as OTC per se, but are considered “nutritional supplements”. For this reason, they fall under the jurisdiction of the Federal Trade Commission and do not fall under the umbrella of the FDA branch that controls dyslipidemic products (Endocrine and Metabolic Division of the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research). The slowly dissolved niacin nutritional supplements have not been reviewed by the FDA for safety nor efficacy in the treatment of dyslipidemia nor are they required to meet generic drug rules (even though various brands are available). These brands are described on their labels as “sustained-release”, “timed-release”, and “slow-release” for example. Only two slowly absorbed niacin products have been approved by the FDA for the treatment of dyslipidemia; they are Niaspan (Kos Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Miami, FL) and Advicor (Kos Pharmaceuticals, Inc., Miami, FL). The term “extended-release” has been given to these two products to simplify the terminology and differentiate the products from immediate-release niacin. In this review, we will use “extended-release” to refer to the FDA approved slowly dissolving niacin preparation and “sustained-release” to refer to the nutritional supplements (not FDA approved).

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