The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved the use of the omega-3-containing drug Vascepa (icosapent ethyl) as a complementary preventive measure against heart attack, stroke and death in patients at high cardiovascular risk.

Vascepa’s active ingredient is the omega-3 fatty acid eicosapentaenoic acid obtained from fish oil.

Vascepa is made by Amarin and can now be used as add-on (secondary) therapy to reduce the risk of cardiovascular events in adults with elevated levels of triglycerides, a type of blood fat.

It is rich in eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and the first FDA-cleared drug approved for reducing cardiovascular risk in patients with elevated triglyceride levels and used to supplement maximally tolerated statin therapy.

Statins are drugs used to treat high cholesterol and reduce the risk of cardiovascular events.

Heart disease remains the leading cause of death in the United States.

EPA and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), another source of omega-3s, are found in oily fish. They can both help reduce inflammation and the risk of chronic diseases like heart disease.

“The FDA recognizes the need for additional medical treatments for cardiovascular disease,” said John Sharretts, assistant director of the division of metabolic and endocrinology products at the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research.

A number of prescription omega-3 fatty acids are available in the market. These include:

  • Epanova (omega-3 carboxylic acids). This contains a combination of EPA and DHA.
  • Lovaza (omega-3 acid ethyl ester). This contains a combination of EPA and DHA.
  • Omtryg: (omega-3 acid ethyl ester). This contains a combination of EPA and DHA.
  • Vascepa (icosapent ethyl). This only includes EPA.

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