A study published in the New England Journal of Medicine considered the effects of icosapent ethyl, a form of the omega-3 fatty acid EPA (NEJM, Nov. 10, 2018). The brand name for this drug is Vascepa.
What Did the Study Show about Vascepa?
This randomized placebo-controlled trial included more than 8,000 high-risk patients for nearly five years. These people had heart disease or diabetes and high triglycerides despite being treated with statins.
The findings in this trial called REDUCE-IT were more promising than those from the VITAL trial. About 17 percent of the volunteers taking icosapent ethyl had a heart attack, stroke, death from cardiovascular complications or hospitalization for heart procedures. In comparison, 22 percent of those on placebo suffered one of these events.
Fewer People Died:
The most important outcome of any trial is mortality. Did the treatment keep people from dying prematurely? The news here is good, if modest.
Fewer people taking Vascepa died from cardiovascular causes: 4.3 percent instead of 5.2 percent of those on placebo. The bottom line appears to be that EPA or eicosapentaenoic acid has cardioprotective activity.