Adults who have extremely high triglyceride levels may receive treatment with a medicine called Vascepa. This prescription drug contains an omega-3 fatty acid called EPA, which helps decrease the liver's production of triglycerides and increases the breakdown of triglycerides in the bloodstream. Vascepa may also be used off-label to treat moderately high triglycerides.
What Is Vascepa Used For?Vascepa™ (icosapent ethyl) is a prescription fish oil medication approved for treating adults with extremely high triglycerides, defined as a triglyceride level of 500 mg/dL or higher. This medicine contains a highly refined form of the omega-3 fatty acid eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).
Triglycerides are the main storage form of fat in the body and are important for the overall functioning of the body. However, high triglycerides in the blood (known as hypertriglyceridemia) can lead to health problems.
High triglycerides can increase your risk for developing certain medical conditions, including heart disease and heart attack. When triglycerides in the blood are high, they can build up on your artery walls, as can cholesterol and other debris. This buildup is called plaque.
Over time, plaque can narrow the blood vessels, and sometimes this buildup may even block your blood vessels completely. Plaque buildup on your blood vessel walls is called atherosclerosis.
For people with extremely high levels of triglycerides in the blood (over 1,000 mg/dL), high triglycerides can also cause other conditions, such as:
- Xanthomas, which are fat deposits under the skin
- Fatty liver
- Pancreatitis, which is an inflammation of the pancreas.
Common causes of high triglycerides include obesity, inactivity, excessive alcohol consumption, or a high-carbohydrate diet. Other causes include various diseases and medications. In general, there are usually no noticeable symptoms of high triglycerides.
Before medications are prescribed to treat high triglycerides, your healthcare provider will recommend various lifestyle changes, such as changes in diet and exercise (see Diet to Lower Triglycerides). You should also limit your alcohol consumption and lose excess weight. Your healthcare provider will also check to make sure your high triglycerides are not caused by another disease or by a medication. After all of these efforts, medications like Vascepa may be recommended if your triglycerides remain high.