Enter the Fish Oil Rx
But supplements are no longer the only way to pop fish oil, which
brings us to some big news on the omega-3 fatty acid front: a
prescription medication Vascepa (icosapent ethyl), which has proven to
be something of a game-changer for those with certain conditions.
Made from one type of omega-3 fatty acid, called eicosapentaenoic (or
EPA), extracted from sardines and anchovies and purified, the pill has
been shown to help reduce the chances of heart attacks and strokes for
those who have a history of cardiovascular disease or major risk factors
for it, such as diabetes or high blood pressure.
According to the New England Journal of Medicine,
those who took the drug in a randomized controlled study had a 25
percent reduced risk of major cardiovascular events. Vascepa is already
approved and in use for those with very high levels of triglycerides.
And it's expected to get expanded approval this month, allowing it to be
prescribed to a larger audience. The drug is designed to be taken in
addition to statin medications (which reduce LDL, or bad cholesterol).
Physicians believe the benefit may come because the medication
contains only EPA at high levels — the amount of fish oil in the daily
recommended dosage is 4 grams — unlike other supplements that contain
both EPA and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), another type of omega-3 fatty
acid, at much lower doses. In fact, says Bhatt, who was the trial's lead
investigator, “You'd have to take 20 to 25 over-the-counter supplements
a day, or consume 20 to 25 servings of fish a week, to potentially get
that level of EPA.” High doses of omega-3 aren't appropriate for
everyone because they may pose risks, such as a slight increase in
bleeding, so Bhatt suggests talking to your doctor to see if you're a
good candidate for the drug.