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FDA Approves Fish Oil-Based Drug For Increased Use

Medically reviewed by Nassir Azimi, MD, Susan Kerrigan, MD and Marianne Madsen on February 19, 2023

Most of us are familiar with fish oil as a vitamin and diet supplement. Fish oil is a prominent source of omega 3 fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fat. In nature, omega 3s are commonly found in fish such as salmon and different types of shellfish like oysters and mussels. While current research on the effectiveness of omega 3 supplements is inconclusive, omega 3s themselves play an important role in heart health. Among their many benefits, omega 3 fatty acids decrease triglycerides, can slightly lower your blood pressure, reduce blood clotting, decrease your risk of stroke and heart failure, and reduce irregular heartbeats.


How does this new drug work?


Considering that your heart is one of the most important organs that keeps your body going, that’s pretty significant, isn’t it? In light of that information, the FDA recently approved its very first drug that is fish oil based. Specifically, the drug is called Vascepa, which contains a “highly purified form of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).” Initially, the drug was only approved for people who had high levels of triglycerides, the type of fat doctors do not like seeing in your bloodwork. Based on a study that showed that icosapent ethyl decreases the risk of heart attack, stroke, and death from cardiac causes by 26% when compared to a placebo, the FDA has now approved it for people who have a certain, documented amount of triglycerides (originally >500 mg/dl but more recently >150 mg/dl qualifies) in their bloodstream despite taking elevated doses of a cholesterol-lowering statin. 


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Omega 3 Fatty Acids Explained

Omega 3 Fatty Acids Explained

Icosapent ethyl (Vascepa) works just like fish oil derived from your diet–except in a much more concentrated form. Consumption of fish oil is proven to have triglyceride-lowering effects which help to restore heart health. But in addition to lowering triglycerides, fish oil provides other heart health benefits–such as reducing inflammation, which is important for preventing blood clots. 


For the last few decades the medical, scientific, and nutrition communities have all known about the heart benefits fish oil provides. Now its benefits can be used in a different and even stronger purified form to help protect against heart disease. 

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