Niaspan Goes Generic

Roni Shye
Roni Shye, PharmD BCGP BCACP, is a licensed pharmacist in the states of Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.
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The popular extended-release cholesterol medication, Niaspan is now available as generic niacin ER.

What is niacin ER?
Niaspan (Niacin ER) is used to treat high cholesterol, along with diet and exercise. Niacin decreases triglyceride levels, lower bad cholesterol (LDL) and increase good cholesterol (HDL). High triglycerides and LDL levels, and low LDL levels, are risk factors for heart disease. Very high triglycerides are also associated with pancreatitis, a painful condition in which the pancreas becomes inflamed.

 Why extended-release niacin?

Immediate-release (commonly over-the-counter) niacin can cause flushing (hotness under the skin, irritation, and redness). The extended release causes less flushing, though it can still happen. Niacin ER is also taken less frequently than the immediate release OTC versions, making it easier to take.

Niacin can also cause damage to the liver. Niacin ER carries a smaller risk, but your liver function should still be monitored regularly. It should be avoided if you have liver disease.

The cost implications:

Like all generics, in the long term, niacin ER should be available at a cheaper cash price or copay than the brand name Niaspan. However, this may not be true initially. Many insurance companies have yet to add the new generic to their formulary, and may only be covering brand name Niaspan. So to start with, you may see higher co-pays for the generic. This is not uncommon when a generic first hits the market, but prices will eventually drop over the next several months.

I actually saw a case this week where the brand was almost $30 cheaper than the generic through one particular insurance. Initially, compare the cost of the generic versus the brand to see if you can save. Over the next couple of months though, be prepared to switch, as the generic will eventually save you more.

Talk to your health care provider or pharmacist if you have any questions.

Till next time,

The GoodRx Pharmacist

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