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Press Release

ASHP Recommends Patients Check with Pharmacists Before Beginning Nonprescription Niacin Therapy

Adults who take nonprescription niacin products to reduce cholesterol without appropriate medical supervision increase the risk of unpleasant and harmful side effects, according to the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP). The Society has released a therapeutic position statement that recommends ways pharmacists can help patients achieve optimal benefit from this drug therapy.

The position statement, published in the December 15, 1997, issue of the American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy, notes that pharmacists are in a unique position to monitor patients' selection of nonprescription niacin and discourage self-treatment. Because of the number of contraindications, the need to adjust dosage, and the frequency of side effects, niacin is not a simple therapy. Side effects can include skin reactions, gastrointestinal distress, glucose intolerance, hepatitis, and a flare-up of symptoms in patients with gout. Pharmacists can educate patients about these side effects; assist them with product selection; advocate compliance by instructing patients how to minimize nausea, abdominal pain, and other bothersome effects; and encourage patients to maintain regular contact with a health care provider. Pharmacists also can work with other health care providers to ensure that the patient is achieving the desired cholesterol-reducing effect. 

ASHP Therapeutic Position Statements are concise documents that respond to therapeutic issues of concern to health care consumers and pharmacists. These documents are developed through the 

ASHP Commission on Therapeutics, an advisory group that focuses on societal drug use and therapeutic issues. 

ASHP is the 30,000-member national professional association that represents pharmacists who practice in hospitals, health maintenance organizations, long-term care facilities, home care, and other components of health care systems. ASHP believes that the mission of pharmacists is to help people make the best use of medications. Assisting pharmacists in fulfilling this mission is ASHP's primary objective.