Thanks for your question.
Niaspan is a long acting formulation of Nicotinic Acid, which has been shown to lower cholesterol, LDL, as well as raise HDL.
Nicotinic acid would have to be taken more than once a day and is associated with a higher rate of flushing, the most common side effect of nicotinic acid. Niaspan, on the other hand, can be taken once a day, and has a lower rate of flushing. If flushing does occur, it usually dissipates over two to four weeks.
Niaspan is not available as a generic at this time.
Martin Cane, M.D.
While this response is correct with respect to FDA approved generics, it is not the whole picture.
The active ingredient in Niaspan is nicotinic acid. It is formulated in a methyl cellulose preparation to make it extended release. You CAN purchase non-prescription, extended release, nicotinic acid over-the-counter for 1/20th the cost of Niaspan.
The problem is doctors are leary to recommend any of these because very few have published data documenting their release, consistency, safety, and efficacy. Since too much niacin exposure can elevate liver enzymes, which can lead to hepatotoxicity, one should think of niacin use for cholesterol as a drug. Only preparations that have demonstrated this information in published clinical studies should be considered. Only two non-prescription preparations have been identified as being safe and effective in medical journal articles. All niacin needs to be monitored by a physician to determine its lipid response and effect on liver enzymes. Highly recommend Dr William Parsons book "Cholesterol Control Without Diet - The Niacin Solution"