Unexpected serious side effects arose in a huge study of a Merck & Co long-acting niacin drug aimed at raising good HDL cholesterol, according to data released on Saturday, possibly adding another nail to the coffin of niacin therapy for heart patients.
Merck has already given up on the drug that combines extended-release niacin with an experimental agent called laropiprant, designed to prevent the uncomfortable facial flushing associated with niacin.
When it was announced that the drug called Tredaptive had failed to prevent heart attacks, strokes, death and other complications in heart patients also taking drugs to lower bad LDL cholesterol, Merck said it would not seek U.S. approval and would stop selling it in the dozens of other countries where it was already available.
A European medical journal last week said the drug caused concerning muscle weakness, especially in Asian patients.
But the results presented on Saturday at the American College of Cardiology scientific meeting in San Francisco painted an even more troubling picture of the medicine.