Niacin vs. Niaspan

What's the Difference?

Niacin and Niaspan are both forms of vitamin B3, also known as niacinamide or nicotinic acid. However, they differ in terms of their formulation and release mechanism. Niacin is available over-the-counter and is typically immediate-release, meaning it is quickly absorbed by the body. On the other hand, Niaspan is a prescription medication that contains extended-release niacin, allowing for a slower and more controlled release of the vitamin. This extended-release formulation of Niaspan helps to minimize the flushing side effect commonly associated with niacin, making it a preferred option for individuals who experience discomfort with immediate-release niacin.


Generic NameNiacinNiacin extended-release
Brand NameN/ANiaspan
ClassificationVitamin B3Vitamin B3
UsesTreating niacin deficiency, lowering cholesterol levelsTreating high cholesterol and triglyceride levels
FormAvailable as tablets, capsules, or in dietary supplementsExtended-release tablets
DosageVaries depending on the condition being treatedUsually starts with a low dose, then gradually increased
Side EffectsFlushing, itching, headache, dizzinessFlushing, headache, dizziness, stomach upset
InteractionsInteracts with certain medications and alcoholInteracts with certain medications and alcohol

Further Detail


Niacin and Niaspan are both forms of vitamin B3, also known as niacinamide or nicotinic acid. They are commonly used to treat high cholesterol and triglyceride levels, as well as to prevent cardiovascular diseases. While they share similarities in terms of their therapeutic effects, there are some important differences between the two. In this article, we will explore the attributes of Niacin and Niaspan, highlighting their similarities and differences.


Both Niacin and Niaspan are effective in lowering LDL cholesterol (the "bad" cholesterol) and triglyceride levels, while increasing HDL cholesterol (the "good" cholesterol). They work by inhibiting the production of certain enzymes involved in cholesterol synthesis, thereby reducing the amount of cholesterol and triglycerides in the bloodstream. Additionally, both forms of niacin have been shown to have positive effects on other cardiovascular risk factors, such as reducing inflammation and improving endothelial function.

Furthermore, Niacin and Niaspan are available in various formulations, including immediate-release, sustained-release, and extended-release tablets. This allows for flexibility in dosing and helps to minimize potential side effects, such as flushing, which is a common adverse effect of niacin therapy.


Niacin, also known as nicotinic acid, is the generic form of vitamin B3. It has been used for decades to treat dyslipidemia and has a well-established safety profile. Niacin is available over-the-counter and is often used as an adjunct to statin therapy in patients with high cholesterol levels. It is typically taken in divided doses throughout the day to minimize flushing, which is a common side effect of immediate-release niacin.

In addition to its lipid-lowering effects, niacin has been shown to have other health benefits. It can help improve insulin sensitivity, making it beneficial for individuals with diabetes or metabolic syndrome. Niacin also has antioxidant properties and can help reduce oxidative stress, which is implicated in the development of various chronic diseases.

However, niacin is not without its limitations. It can cause flushing, itching, and gastrointestinal side effects, especially at higher doses. These side effects can be minimized by starting with a low dose and gradually increasing it over time. Niacin can also increase blood sugar levels, so close monitoring is necessary in individuals with diabetes.


Niaspan is a prescription-only extended-release form of niacin. It is specifically designed to minimize the flushing side effect associated with immediate-release niacin. Niaspan is often prescribed to patients who cannot tolerate the flushing or gastrointestinal side effects of regular niacin. The extended-release formulation allows for once-daily dosing, making it more convenient for patients.

One of the key advantages of Niaspan is its improved tolerability compared to immediate-release niacin. The extended-release formulation releases niacin slowly over time, reducing the incidence and severity of flushing. This makes Niaspan a preferred option for patients who have experienced intolerable flushing with regular niacin.

However, Niaspan is generally more expensive than generic niacin, which can be a limiting factor for some patients. Additionally, while Niaspan is generally well-tolerated, it can still cause gastrointestinal side effects, such as nausea and diarrhea, although these are usually milder compared to immediate-release niacin.


In conclusion, both Niacin and Niaspan are effective in lowering LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels, while increasing HDL cholesterol. They have similar mechanisms of action and can be used in various formulations to suit individual patient needs. Niacin, as the generic form, is more widely available and less expensive, but it can cause flushing and gastrointestinal side effects. Niaspan, on the other hand, is a prescription-only extended-release form of niacin that minimizes flushing but is more expensive. The choice between Niacin and Niaspan depends on individual patient factors, including tolerability, cost, and convenience. It is important to consult with a healthcare professional to determine the most appropriate treatment option for each patient's specific needs.

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