Elevated levels of triglycerides are associated with pancreatitis and an increased risk of coronary heart disease. Numerous pharmacologic therapies are available to treat hypertriglyceridemia, including prescription omega-3 fatty acids, which reduce triglyceride levels by 20–50%. Available data indicate the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) may be beneficial for secondary prevention of coronary heart disease. Products containing DHA may increase low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) and, subsequently, coronary heart disease risk. We reviewed prescription omega-3 fatty acid products, of which two—omega-3 acid ethyl esters (OM3EE) and omega-3 carboxylic acid (OM3CA)—contain both DHA and EPA, whereas the other—icosapent ethyl (IPE)—contains EPA only. We identified three retrospective chart reviews and three case reports comparing IPE with OM3EE, whereas two studies compared IPE with placebo. We also reviewed the major studies of OM3EE versus placebo used to gain US FDA approval. LDL-C levels decreased or did not increase significantly in all available studies and case reports in patients receiving the IPE product, with the best data supporting a dose of 4 g per day. The majority of studies only included patients taking IPE concomitantly with statins, but limited data from one study using IPE monotherapy showed a small reduction in LDL-C. Many questions remain regarding IPE, including whether the product reduces cardiovascular events and mortality.
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Conflicts of interest
Randall P. Sharp, Barry J. Gales, and Riaz Sirajuddin have no conflicts of interest.
No sources of funding were used to assist with the preparation of this review.
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Sharp, R.P., Gales, B.J. & Sirajuddin, R. Comparing the Impact of Prescription Omega-3 Fatty Acid Products on Low-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol. Am J Cardiovasc Drugs 18, 83–92 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s40256-017-0253-0