- Evidence from two studies indicated that medications with fish oil components can protect people from fatal heart diseases, strokes and heart attacks.
- One study called REDUCE-IT involved giving the purified fish oil drug Vascepa to people with heart disease while the other research called VITAL studied the effects of the drug Lovaza.
- Results have been called ‘promising’ and may alter the lives of millions of people with heart disease.
While statins, known medications that lower ‘bad cholesterol’ or LDL, are credited to reduce heart attack and stroke risks, heart disease remains as America’s leading killer. Over the years, researchers have sought other ways beyond known protective factors like diet change, exercise and smoking habits, to combat heart disease.
Two recently released studies provide proof that fish oil medications can prevent fatal cardiovascular diseases including heart attacks and strokes.
Co-study author Deepak Bhatt of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston said the results can change the lives of perhaps tens of millions of people.
The first study, dubbed by the acronym REDUCE-IT, involved more than 8,000 people. A group of people already with heart disease who were taking in statins were proven to have lesser chances of serious heart problems when they started taking in 2 grams of Vascepa (icosapent ethyl) twice a day.
Vascepa is a purer version of a fish oil component that targets triglycerides, which at high levels, can harden arteries leading to strokes and heart attacks. In September, research sponsor and drug maker Amarin Corporation announced that the study had met its goals.
The second study, called VITAL, determined the effect of a different formulation of Omega-3 fatty acids in the drug Lovaza. About 26,000 people who were given the drug were followed up by researchers for an average of more than five years.
Results showed that 28 percent are less likely to suffer heart attacks from the group who were given the drug compared to 8 percent less likely to have cardiovascular events among the group who were given a placebo.
While no decline in strokes was noted in the study, a decrease in heart attacks events was observed among people who consumed less than 1.5 servings of fish weekly but increased their Omega-3s by taking the drug. The effects were more pronounced in African-Americans.
Although study leader JoAnne Manson, Brigham and Women’s Hospital chief of preventive medicine, said that further support Omega-3 benefits in heart health, further studies are needed before the results can be relied on. However, Manson said people who are already taking fish oil have no reason to stop, and also recommended more fish in the diet and having at least two servings a week.
The study was sponsored by the National Institutes of Health. Lovaza is available in generic form and is made by GSK.
The research was released at the American Heart Association’s 2018 Scientific Sessions in Chicago last fall, and published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
Source: Oregon Live