Background: Severe hypertriglyceridemia is a risk factor for acute pancreatitis, therefore decreasing serum triglyceride concentrations is an important component of risk management. Omega-3 fatty acids are well known hypotriglyceridemic agents, but their efficacy in severe forms of the disorder is not well documented. Our objective was to examine the effects of Omacor, a drug composed of 85% omega-3 fatty acid ethyl esters.
Methods: Forty-two patients with triglyceride concentrations between 5.65 and 22.60 mmol/l (500 and 2000 mg/dl) were studied in a prospective, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of Omacor (4 g/day for 4 months).
Results: Compared with baseline values, Omacor significantly reduced mean triglyceride concentrations by 45% (P<0.00001), cholesterol by 15% (P< 0.001), very-low-density lipoprotein cholesterol by 32% (P< 0.0001) and cholesterol:high density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol ratio by 20% (P=0.0013), and increased HDL cholesterol by 13% (P=0.014) and low-density lipoprotein cholesterol by 31% (P=0.0014). The placebo had no effect on these parameters. Omacor was well tolerated and no patient discontinued medication because of side effects.
Conclusions: Four capsules of Omacor per day markedly decreased triglyceride concentrations in patients with severe hypertriglyceridemia. The availability of a potent and safe omega-3 fatty acid preparation for this patient population should diminish the risk for acute pancreatitis, and may also reduce the long-term risk for cardiovascular disease.