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Cardiovascular disease is the number one cause of death of people living in the United States (US). Having elevated (abnormal) triglyceride levels may contribute to atherosclerosis, which increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. The US Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of a drug to reduce the risk of cardiovascular events in adults who have elevated triglyceride levels.

The drug, called Vascepa (icosapent ethyl), reduces blood triglyceride levels by one-third when accompanied by low-fat, low-cholesterol dietary modification. It has been shown to reduce the rate of heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular events by 25 percent compared to a placebo.

Candidates for Vascepa therapy must have triglyceride levels of 150 milligrams per deciliter or higher. They should also have established cardiovascular disease or type 2 diabetes and two or more additional cardiovascular disease risk factors.

The active ingredient in Vascepa is eicosapentaenoic acid, a type of omega-3 fatty acid derived from fish oil. The drug, which is taken orally, has demonstrated a safety profile similar to placebos. Adverse events associated with Vascepa include atrial fibrillation and increased risk of bleeding. People who are allergic to fish or shellfish may be at risk for allergic reactions to Vascepa.

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