Tips from Other Journals

Can Lipid-Lowering Drugs Be Used to Increase HDL Levels?


FREE PREVIEW. AAFP members and paid subscribers: Log in to get free access. All others: Purchase online access.

FREE PREVIEW. Purchase online access to read the full version of this article.

Am Fam Physician. 2000 Jul 1;62(1):179.

Although low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol are usually accompanied by other lipid abnormalities, low HDL levels in isolation may signal a risk of premature coronary artery disease in nonobese, nonsmoking patients who exercise regularly. Zema studied the efficacy and safety of gemfibrozil and niacin, alone and in combination, in increasing low HDL levels in patients with coronary artery disease or peripheral artery disease and no other lipid abnormalities.

The 23 patients (22 men and one woman) in the open-label crossover study had HDL levels less than 40 mg per dL (1.05 mmol per L). Twenty-two had coronary artery disease, and one had peripheral vascular disease. They were randomly assigned to receive 600 mg of gemfibrozil twice daily, 100 to 250 mg of niacin three times daily or a combination of 600 mg of gemfibrozil twice daily and the maximal tolerated dosage of niacin. Patients received maximal dosages of the agents for three months, if tolerated, and then crossed over to the other treatment arm.

In the 14 patients who were able to tolerate all three treatments, the mean HDL cholesterol level increased by 15 percent with gemfibrozil, by 35 percent with niacin and by 45 percent with the combination of gemfibrozil and niacin. Approximately 40 percent of the patients could not tolerate one or both of the drugs. The main side effects of gemfibrozil were gastrointestinal. Flushing was the main side effect of niacin.

The author concludes that drug therapy with gemfibrozil, niacin or a combination of the two can increase isolated low HDL levels. The best results occurred with the combination of gemfibrozil and niacin.

Zema MJ. Gemfibrozil, nicotinic acid and combination therapy in patients with isolated hypoalphalipoproteinemia: a randomized, open-label, crossover study. J Am Coll Cardiol. March 1, 2000;35:640–6.


Copyright © 2000 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
This content is owned by the AAFP. A person viewing it online may make one printout of the material and may use that printout only for his or her personal, non-commercial reference. This material may not otherwise be downloaded, copied, printed, stored, transmitted or reproduced in any medium, whether now known or later invented, except as authorized in writing by the AAFP. Contact for copyright questions and/or permission requests.

Want to use this article elsewhere? Get Permissions


Oct 15, 2016

Access the latest issue of American Family Physician

Read the Issue

Email Alerts

Don't miss a single issue. Sign up for the free AFP email table of contents.

Sign Up Now

Navigate this Article