A statistical analysis predicts that more than 70,000 heart attacks, strokes, and other adverse cardiovascular events could be prevented each year in the United States through the use of a highly purified fish oil therapy.

The study, known as REDUCE-IT, utilizes data from the CDC’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) and includes criteria from a multinational clinical trial led by investigators from Harvard University.

The trial has found that patients with known cardiovascular disease or diabetes and multiple risk factors, who have elevated triglyceride levels, and are at increased risk for ischemic events, benefit substantially from icosapent ethyl (Vascepa, Amarin Pharma), a highly purified fish oil therapy. This therapy was found to lower cardiovascular events, including heart attacks and strokes, by 25%, according to the study authors. Positive results were not found in other trials, possibly due to mixtures with other omega-3 fatty acids, such as docosahexaenoic acid, or inadequate dosages.

Icosapent ethyl is a purified stable eicosapentaenoic acid that was recently approved by the FDA in conjunction with maximally tolerated statin therapy to reduce the risk of cardiovascular events in certain adults with elevated triglyceride levels. The only drug of its kind to show such an effect is icosapent ethyl, according to the study.

“Our analysis extends the findings of the REDUCE-IT trial by estimating its potential impact on the US population,” said Nathan D. Wong, PhD, professor and director of the Heart Disease Prevention Program at the UCI School of Medicine, in a press release. “By using inclusion criteria and cardiovascular disease event rates from the REDUCE-IT trial and applying it to data on US adults from NHANES, we were able to estimate the beneficial impact icosapent ethyl could have on preventing initial and total cardiovascular events in eligible US adults with cardiovascular disease or diabetes and multiple risk factors.”

The analysis is the first to project the findings of REDUCE-IT to the overall US population, according to the study.

  1. New research predicts purified, prescription-strength fish oil could prevent more than 70,000 adverse cardiovascular events nationwide each year [news release]. Irvine, CA. Published March 25, 2020. http://som.uci.edu/news_releases/Purified-fish-oil-could-prevent-cardiovascular-events.asp. Accessed March 27, 2020.