Over 700,000 prescriptions are filled for Niacin every month to help combat bad cholesterol. While the drug does lower cholesterol according to studies, a new report out is linking it to serious side effects including diabetes.

Other serious side effects the drug is being linked to include musculoskeletal, skin-related events and gastrointestinal problems. The study is being published in New England Journal of Medicine.

Niacin is a B-vitamin (B3) and is used as a both a natural and easy way to control LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol. Recent studies have shown that it does not reduce the rates of heart attacks, strokes or incidents of chest pain. Cardiologists have been shying away from the drug in recent years, and now experts are pushing for it to be dropped.

One of the studies out today covered 25,000 participants in both Europe and China. While Niacin did lower LDL, it was linked to a 32 percent increase in the risk of diabetes. That’s one way to juice pharmaceutical profits. Take one pill now and add five more in the future.

“On the basis of the weight of available evidence showing net clinical harm, niacin must be considered to have an unacceptable toxicity profile for the majority of patients, and it should not be used routinely,” Dr. Donald Lloyd-Jones of Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago said in a statement. “Niacin may still have a role in patients at very high risk for cardiovascular events who truly have contraindications for taking statins,.”

Essentially, unless Niacin is your last resort medication, avoid it. One issue that pops up is that Niacin is cheap. Rather through prescriptions, reaching 700,000 per month, or through over-the-counter supplements. Those sales figures can’t be tracked, but you can walk into any grocery store and grab a bottle of vitamin B3.

In the end, before taking anything for your health, talk to your doctor. Don’t jump on google and become a doctor by Internet. If you are one of the 70 million Americans with unhealthy cholesterol levels, you shouldn’t be rushing to Walmart to stock up on B3.

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