Prescription omega-3 fatty acid medications effectively lower high triglycerides

Top view of prescription drug bottles with opening instructions on cap.

American Heart Association Science Advisory

Prescription omega-3 fatty acid medication reduces triglyceride levels by 20-30% among the majority of people who require treatment for high triglyceride levels, according to a science advisory from the American Heart Association.

“From our review of the evidence from 17 randomized, controlled clinical trials on high triglyceride levels, we concluded that treatment with 4 grams daily of any of the available prescription choices is effective and can be used safely in conjunction with statin medicines that lower cholesterol,” said Ann Skulas-Ray, Ph.D., an author of the new science advisory published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation.

There are two prescription omega-3 fatty acid medications available. One combines two types of fatty acids, EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). The other medication provides EPA only. Since there have been no head-to-head comparisons of the two different formulations at prescription dosing, the advisory does not recommend one over the other.

Triglycerides are fats that circulate in the blood. Some studies have shown that elevated levels of triglycerides (above 200 mg/dL) can lead to atherosclerosis (narrowing of the arteries) which increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. In addition to cardiovascular risk, very high levels of triglycerides (above 500 mg/dL) can also cause pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas.

Skulas-Ray points out that people with high triglyceride levels should not try to treat the condition themselves with non-prescription, omega-3 fatty acid fish oil supplements.

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