Types of Niacin

Rx vs. OTC Niacin

Prescription versions of niacin include Niacor (IR niacin) and Niaspan (ER niacin). Non-prescription versions include all the SR niacin products (such as Slo-Niacin) and many IR niacin versions. Very importantly, only the prescription versions are regulated as drugs; the non-prescription versions are regulated as dietary supplements. The manufacturers of the supplements cannot claim that they are effective for treating cholesterol or any other medical condition.
 
More importantly, because the manufacturing of non-prescription niacin supplements is not tightly regulated, there may be significant batch-to-batch variations in the products (some might contain much more or much less niacin than labeled). If you do choose to use an over-the-counter niacin supplement, it is crucial to choose a supplement from a trustworthy and reliable manufacturer (your pharmacist can help you with this).
 
As was discussed earlier, there seem to be important safety (and probably efficacy) differences between over-the-counter SR niacin (Slo-Niacin) and prescription ER niacin (Niaspan). These products should not be considered to be equivalent.
 

Final Thoughts on Types of Niacin

In all situations, it is important to have your cholesterol levels and liver function checked periodically while taking niacin, no matter what type of niacin you take. This is important both to make sure the niacin is working and to make sure you are not developing liver problems due to niacin.
 
If you can tolerate it (and do not mind taking it several times a day), IR niacin might be a good and cost-effective choice, especially if you use the prescription version or a reliable non-prescription version. However, for many people, ER niacin (Niaspan) is a better choice, especially if flushing is intolerable. Many healthcare providers recommend that SR niacin (the non-prescription, slow release forms) should generally be avoided if possible, due to the increased risk of liver damage.
 
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Niacin Vitamin Information

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