An Irish pharmaceutical company has announced that its purified fish oil drug, Vascepa, is linked with a 25 per cent reduced risk of heart attack and stroke.
The drug works by decreasing levels of triglycerides (a type of fat found in the blood) without increasing levels of LDL (or ‘bad cholesterol’), as fish oil supplements can do in some patients.
Increased levels of LDL and triglycerides are major causes of the development of heart disease. These fat cells build up in the arteries, narrowing the passageways for blood. This causes the heart to work much harder to pump blood through the arteries, which can eventually become blocked. This significantly increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.
The drug, which is derived from a single omega-3 fatty acid isolated from fish, was tested on 8,179 patients for five years. Every participant had normal levels of LDL under the control of statins, and elevated levels of triglycerides. Patients also had either established cardiovascular disease or Type 2 diabetes and at least one other cardiovascular risk factor.
Half of the study’s participants were given Vascepa, and the other half were given a placebo. The company claims that those given the drug were 25 per cent less likely to have a coronary event than those in the control group.
More detailed results from the trial will be presented on November 10 at a meeting of the American Heart Association in Chicago, and the researchers also plan to publish the results in a peer-reviewed journal.