Fish oil drugs pro­tect heart health, 2 stud­ies say

The Columbus Dispatch - - Front Page - By Lenny Bern­stein

Two ma­jor stud­ies re­leased Satur­day pro­vide ev­i­dence that med­i­ca­tions de­rived from fish oil are ef­fec­tive in pro­tect­ing peo­ple from fa­tal heart at­tacks, strokes and other forms of car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease.

The large, mul­ti­year re­search ef­forts tested dif­fer­ent for­mu­la­tions and quan­ti­ties of drugs made with Omega-3 fatty acids on two groups of peo­ple: one that suf­fered from car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease or di­a­betes and an­other that rep­re­sented the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion. Both stud­ies found that peo­ple who took the drugs ev­ery day en­joyed pro­tec­tion against some heart and cir­cu­la­tory prob­lems com­pared with those given a placebo.

In a look at an­other com­monly con­sumed sup­ple­ment, Vi­ta­min D, re­searchers found no ef­fect on heart dis­ease but saw a link to a de­cline in cancer deaths over time.

The re­search was re­leased Satur­day at the Amer­i­can Heart As­so­ci­a­tion's 2018 Sci­en­tific Ses­sions in Chicago and pub­lished in the New Eng­land Jour­nal of Medicine.

About 43 mil­lion peo­ple in the United States take statins to lower LDL, or "bad," choles­terol, and the drugs are cred­ited with re­duc­ing the risk of heart at­tacks and strokes. But heart dis­ease re­mains the lead­ing killer of Amer­i­cans. In re­cent years, a long, steady de­crease in heart dis­ease deaths has slowed. So re­searchers con­tinue to seek other ways to com­bat car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease be­yond known pro­tec­tive fac­tors such as changes in diet, ex­er­cise and smok­ing habits.

One of the stud­ies un­veiled Satur­day, named by the acro­nym RE­DUCE-IT, de­ter­mined that peo­ple with car­dio­vas­cu­lar dis­ease who were al­ready tak­ing statins stood less chance of se­ri­ous heart is­sues when they were also given 2 grams of the drug Vas­cepa (icos­apent ethyl) twice a day.

The drug is a pu­ri­fied ver­sion of a fish oil com­po­nent that tar­gets triglyc­erides, an­other type of fat in the blood. El­e­vated triglyc­erides can har­den or thicken ar­ter­ies, po­ten­tially lead­ing to strokes and heart at­tacks. Peo­ple who took the drug were com­pared with those who were given a placebo. The study in­volved more than 8,000 peo­ple.

The drug is made by Amarin Corp., which spon­sored the re­search. In Septem­ber, Amarin an­nounced that the study had met its pri­mary goals.

Deepak Bhatt, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of in­ter­ven­tional car­dio­vas­cu­lar pro­grams at Brigham and Women's Hospi­tal in Bos­ton, who led the study, said the re­sults could change the prac­tice of car­di­ol­ogy in the same way that the in­tro­duc­tion of statins did more than 30 years ago.

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