New options for patients with cardiovascular risk come in the form of a newer medication recently tested through a clinical trial at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH). The drug, a prescription-strength form of purified omega-3 fatty acid EPA, was found to significantly reduce the risk of death in patients with elevated triglyceride levels.

The drug, known as icosapent ethyl, or Vascepa, appears to work by delivering higher levels of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) without the LDL-raising (low-density lipoprotein) side effects of over-the-counter fish oil supplements, which also contain DHA (docosahexaenoic acid.) Patients were found to have lower rates of cardiovascular death, nonfatal heart attack and stroke, and hospitalization for related symptoms by the end of the study. The risk reductions came on top of the lowered risk already offered by statins—a benefit, experts say, that is encouraging.

“I think we’ve stumbled onto something here in terms of a new class of drugs,” says Deepak Bhatt, MD, Executive Director of Interventional Cardiovascular Programs at BWH and lead author of the New England Journal of Medicine-published study. “Honestly, I think it’s as exciting as the statin era, when we first learned about all the things they can do—I view this as a similar breakthrough.”

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Topics: Prevention, Academic Medical Centers

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