More bad news for Niacin

The New England Journal of Medicine first published the results of the HPS2-THRIVE randomized clinical trial in 2014. Niacin addition to statin therapy did not improve cardiovascular outcomes. Instead, the trial found an increased rate of adverse events.

Last month, Clinical Therapeutics published a detailed analysis of the trial’s adverse events. Authors found that niacin addition significantly increased the risk of new-onset diabetes, worsening of diabetes, severe bleeding, and serious infections by about 30%, 55%, 40%, and 20% respectively.

The above adverse outcomes were more pronounced in the first year after the start of niacin. The infection rate was an exception, which stayed elevated throughout the trial. Investigators followed and analyzed a group of 25,000 patients with high baseline risk for the vascular disease over four years.

Based on HPS2-THRIVE data, it is difficult to justify the clinical use of niacin from the cardiovascular standpoint.


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Clinical Therapeutics


August 2019


The Heart Protection Study 2 – Treatment of HDL to Reduce the Incidence of Vascular Events (HPS2-THRIVE) trial of patients at high risk of vascular disease found that adding extended-release niacin-laropiprant to intensive statin-based LDL-lowering therapy had no benefit on cardiovascular outcomes.

However, the trial also identified previously unrecognized serious adverse effects (including new-onset diabetes, bleeding, and infection). Our objective was to explore the safety profile of niacin-laropiprant and examine whether any patients were at lower (or higher) risk of its adverse effects.


HPS2-THRIVE was a randomized, double-blind trial of niacin-laropiprant (2000/40 mg/d) versus placebo among 25,673 patients at high risk of vascular disease. Information on all serious adverse events was collected during a median of 3.9 years of study treatment. Effects of niacin-laropiprant on new-onset diabetes, disturbances of diabetes control, bleeding, infection, and gastrointestinal upset were estimated by

(1) Time after randomization,

(2) Severity,

(3) Baseline characteristics,

(4) Baseline risk of the adverse event of interest, and

(5) Risk of major vascular event.


The hazard ratio (HR) for new-onset diabetes with niacin/laropiprant was 1.32 (P <0.001), which corresponded to an absolute excess of 4 people (95% CI, 2–6) developing diabetes per 1000 person-years in the study population as a whole.  

Among the 8299 participants with diabetes at baseline, the HR for serious disturbances in diabetes control was 1.56 (95% CI, 1.35–1.80), corresponding to an absolute excess of 12 (95% CI, 8–16) per 1000 person-years.

The HR was 1.38 (95% CI, 1.17–1.63; P < .001) for serious bleeding, corresponding to an absolute excess of 2 (95% CI, 1–3) per 1000 person-year. 

The HR was 1.22 (P <0.001) for serious infection, corresponding to an absolute excess of 4 (95% CI, 2–6) per 1000 person-years.

The excess risks of these serious adverse events were larger in the first year after starting niacin-laropiprant therapy than in later years (except for the excess of infection, which did not appear to attenuate with time), and the risks of nonfatal and fatal events were similarly increased.

The absolute excesses of each of these adverse effects were similar regardless of the baseline risk of the outcome.


Practitioners or patients considering the use of niacin (in addition to, or instead of, a statin) despite the lack of evidence of cardiovascular benefits (at least when added to effective statin therapy) should take account of the significant risks of these serious adverse effects when making such decisions.