Fish oil drug helps shrink plaque in heart arteries

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Published: December, 2020

A drug made from a highly purified form of EPA (an omega-3 fatty acid found in fish) appears to help reduce plaque in the heart's arteries, according to a study published online Aug. 29, 2020, by the European Heart Journal. The findings may explain why the drug, icosapent ethyl (Vascepa), lowers the risk of heart attack and stroke by 26% in people at high risk for those serious problems.

The study included 80 people with fatty plaque in the arteries of the heart (coronary artery disease). Most of them had diabetes and were taking a statin. Their trigly-cerides were elevated, ranging from 135 to 499 milligrams per deciliter. Half were randomly assigned to take 4 grams of icosapent ethyl daily; the other half received a placebo.

After 18 months, imaging tests showed that compared with the placebo group, the group taking the drug had less unstable (dangerous) plaque. The total volume of plaque was also lower among those taking the drug.

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