Adding these drugs to statins may lower stroke risk

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In a new study, researchers found that taking the triglyceride-lowering medication icosapent ethyl cut the risk of stroke by an additional 36% in people who already use statin medications.

They say icosapent ethyl is a new way to further reduce the risk of stroke in patients with atherosclerosis or who are at high risk of stroke, who have elevated triglyceride levels and are already taking statins.

The research was conducted by a team at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital.

Icosapent ethyl is a prescription medication that is a highly purified form of the omega-3 fatty acid eicosapentaenoic acid.

In December 2019, the FDA approved icosapent ethyl as a secondary treatment to reduce the risk of cardiovascular events among adults with elevated triglyceride levels, and it is now recommended in some professional guidelines.

Triglycerides are fats from food that are carried in the blood; normal levels for an adult are below 150 mg/dL.

In the current study, the team examined the impact of icosapent ethyl on stroke in the same 8,000 participants of the original REDUCE-IT trial.

They found the risk of a first fatal or nonfatal ischemic stroke was reduced by 36% for patients treated with icosapent ethyl;

for every 1,000 patients treated with icosapent ethyl for five years, about 14 strokes were averted; and

the risk of a bleeding stroke was very low, and no difference was found among those taking icosapent ethyl.

The team says patients should know their triglyceride levels.

If they are elevated, ask a doctor if it is necessary to take icosapent ethyl to further reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.

A doctor may also recommend that people change their diets, exercise, lose weight to lower the triglyceride levels, and may prescribe a statin medication to lower LDL cholesterol levels.

One author of the study is Deepak L. Bhatt, M.D., M.P.H.

The study was presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference 2021.

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