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Vascepa

Generic Name: icosapent (eye KOE sa pent)
Brand Name: Vascepa

Medically reviewed by Sophia Entringer, PharmD. Last updated on March 4, 2020.

What is Vascepa?

Vascepa (icosapent) works in the liver and bloodstream to reduce very low-density triglycerides.

Vascepa is used together with other medicines (such as statins) to reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, and some types of heart problems that need hospitalization in adults.

Vascepa is used together with a low-fat and low-cholesterol diet to reduce triglycerides (fats) in adults with severely high triglycerides.

It is not known whether Vascepa will lower your risk of pancreatitis (inflammation of your pancreas).

Warnings

Before you take Vascepa, tell your doctor if you have liver disease, diabetes, a thyroid disorder, pancreas problems, a bleeding or blood-clotting disorder, an allergy to fish or shellfish, or if you drink large quantities of alcohol.

Vascepa is only part of a treatment program that may also include diet, exercise, and weight control. Follow your doctor's instructions very closely.

Before taking this medicine

You should not use Vascepa if you are allergic to icosapent.

To make sure Vascepa is safe for you, tell your doctor if you have ever had:

  • liver disease;

  • diabetes;

  • a thyroid disorder;

  • problems with your pancreas;

  • a bleeding or blood-clotting disorder; or

  • if you are allergic to fish or shellfish.

It is not known whether icosapent will harm an unborn baby. Tell your doctor if you are pregnant or plan to become pregnant.

Icosapent can pass into breast milk, and may harm your baby. Tell your doctor if you are breastfeeding.

Vascepa is not approved for use by anyone younger than 18 years old.

How should I take Vascepa?

Vascepa is usually taken 2 times per day. Follow all directions on your prescription label and read all medication guides or instruction sheets. Use the medicine exactly as directed.

Take with food.

Swallow the capsule whole and do not crush, chew, break, or open it.

You will need frequent blood tests.

Vascepa is only part of a complete treatment program that may also include diet, exercise, and weight control. Follow your diet, medication, and exercise routines very closely.

Store at room temperature away from moisture and heat.

Dosing information

Usual Adult Dose for Hypertriglyceridemia:

2 g orally twice a day with food

Comments:
-Patients should be placed on an appropriate lipid-lowering diet and exercise regimen before initiating therapy and should continue this diet and exercise regimen during therapy.

Uses:
-As an adjunct to diet to reduce triglyceride (TG) levels in patients with severe (500 mg/dL or greater) hypertriglyceridemia.
-As an adjunct to maximally tolerated statin therapy to reduce the risk of myocardial infarction, stroke, coronary revascularization, and unstable angina requiring hospitalization in adult patients with triglyceride levels of 150 mg/dL or higher and established cardiovascular disease or diabetes mellitus and 2 or more additional risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

Usual Adult Dose for Cardiovascular Risk Reduction:

2 g orally twice a day with food

Comments:
-Patients should be placed on an appropriate lipid-lowering diet and exercise regimen before initiating therapy and should continue this diet and exercise regimen during therapy.

Uses:
-As an adjunct to diet to reduce triglyceride (TG) levels in patients with severe (500 mg/dL or greater) hypertriglyceridemia.
-As an adjunct to maximally tolerated statin therapy to reduce the risk of myocardial infarction, stroke, coronary revascularization, and unstable angina requiring hospitalization in adult patients with triglyceride levels of 150 mg/dL or higher and established cardiovascular disease or diabetes mellitus and 2 or more additional risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

What happens if I miss a dose?

Take the medicine as soon as you can, but skip the missed dose if it is almost time for your next dose. Do not take two doses at one time.

What happens if I overdose?

Seek emergency medical attention or call the Poison Help line at 1-800-222-1222.

What to avoid

Avoid eating foods that are high in fat or cholesterol. Vascepa will not be as effective in lowering your cholesterol if you do not follow a cholesterol lowering diet plan.

Vascepa side effects

Get emergency medical help if you have signs of an allergic reaction to Vascepa: hives; difficult breathing; swelling of your face, lips, tongue, or throat.

Call your doctor at once if you have:

  • fast or irregular heartbeats, dizziness, shortness of breath, chest discomfort, fainting, or if you feel light-headed; or

  • serious bleeding.

Common Vascepa side effects may include:

  • muscle or joint pain;

  • constipation;

  • swelling of the hands, legs, or feet.

  • gout; or

  • chest pressure, racing or pounding heartbeats, fluttering in your chest, feeling short of breath.

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. Call your doctor for medical advice about side effects. You may report side effects to FDA at 1-800-FDA-1088.

What other drugs will affect Vascepa?

Tell your doctor about all your other medicines, especially:

This list is not complete. Other drugs may interact with icosapent, including prescription and over-the-counter medicines, vitamins, and herbal products. Not all possible drug interactions are listed here.

Popular FAQ

Vascepa (icosapent ethyl) is a prescription omega-3 fatty acid that is similar to fish oil but not exactly the same. The main differences between Vascepa and fish oil is that Vascepa only contains eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), whereas supplemental fish oils contain both EPA and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). By only containing EPA, Vascepa reduces high triglycerides without raising levels of “bad” cholesterol or LDL-C. Vascepa is also up to four times stronger than most OTC fish oils, more expensive, carries a higher risk of bleeding and heart rythym disturbances, and is only available on prescription to people who meet certain criteria.

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There are no documented reports that Vascepa (icosapent ethyl) helps with weight loss. Vascepa reduces triglyceride production in the liver and enhances the clearance of triglycerides from lipid particles, via a number of different mechanisms. Anecdotally, some blogs report weight loss with Vascepa, but this tends to correlate with the person experiencing side effects such excessive diarrhea or gastrointestinal discomfort. Any weight loss is more likely to be due to diet modification and increased physical activity which are both recommended when taking Vascepa. Continue reading

It takes approximately one year for Vascepa to start reducing a person's cardiovascular risk and up to almost five years for the full risk-reducing effects to be seen. Laboratory results showed that Vascepa reduced triglycerides by a median of -39 mg/dL (or a drop of 18%) after one year whereas those assigned to placebo had an increase in triglycerides of 5 mg/dL (an increase of 2%). Continue reading

Hair thinning or loss (alopecia) is not listed as a side effect in data reviewed by the FDA for the approval of Vascepa. In some people, hair loss may be due to a medical condition, another medication, diet or stress levels. Contact your doctor for further advice. Continue reading

Yes, Vascepa does thin your blood, and people receiving Vascepa are at a slightly increased risk of bleeding with one trial showing 12% of people receiving Vascepa experienced a bleeding event compared with 10% of people receiving a placebo (an inactive pill). The risk of bleeding is higher in people who also take other medications or supplements that increase bleeding risk such as aspirin, clopidogrel, dabigatran, warfarin, NSAIDs, feverfew, ginkgo, garlic, or ginseng.

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Further information

Remember, keep this and all other medicines out of the reach of children, never share your medicines with others, and use Vascepa only for the indication prescribed.

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.