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Ask the doctor: What are the alternatives to a statin for lowering cholesterol?

Updated: August 01, 2010

Q. I have tried all of the statin drugs to lower my cholesterol, but each one has caused severe muscle pain. Are there any non-statin medications I could try using to lower my cholesterol?

A. Have you tried niacin yet? It is an excellent drug for reducing cardiac risk in almost every way — it lowers harmful LDL cholesterol, raises beneficial HDL, and reduces cardiac complications. One reason it plays second fiddle to statins is that it causes side effects like itching and flushing in many people. These side effects can often be minimized or even eliminated by taking an aspirin before niacin, by gradually building up the dose, or by taking the intermediate-release type called Niaspan, which is available by prescription only.

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