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New drug containing an omega-3 fatty acid found in fish oil may help one in four high-risk patients avoid heart attacks and strokes


In a real-world study, researchers have found that one in four people with a history of heart disease may benefit from a new drug that contains large doses of EPA, an omega-3 fatty acid contained in fish oil.

The study conducted by researchers at ICES, a non-profit research institute, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre and the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre (PMCC), is being published today in the European Heart Journal and presented simultaneously at the American Heart Association conference in Philadelphia.

“We have seen steady declines in LDL cholesterol, or bad cholesterol, in the population over the past decade or two, largely because of statins and other preventive approaches including lifestyle modification, but despite this, heart attacks and other heart and vascular problems continue to strike often. We wanted to understand why this happens, and what other causes of heart attacks doctors may be missing,” says Dr. Patrick Lawler, author on the study and cardiologist at PMCC.

The researchers looked at data for 196,717 people with a history of cardiovascular events, such as heart attacks, strokes and angina. Of those, 25 per cent (49,886) had cholesterol levels that were below guideline-recommended target levels, but had high triglycerides, a type of fat in the blood that may be linked to an increased risk of heart disease. Patients with high triglycerides were observed to have higher risks of recurring cardiovascular problems. These findings are timely, as recent trial evidence suggests that targeting high triglyceride may reduce cardiovascular events.

“A number of clinical trials have shown very positive results for this new class of medication. We wanted to see whether triglycerides are associated with worse outcomes in patients with heart disease in the real world, and how many patients could benefit from this new class of medication,” says Dr. Dennis Ko, senior author on the study, a senior scientist at ICES and a cardiologist at Sunnybrook’s Schulich Heart Centre.

The researchers add that this large-scale study illustrates that future research needs to focus on new risk pathways not adequately addressed by current therapies, to improve outcomes in people who have a known history of heart or vascular disease.

The study “Real-world risk of cardiovascular outcomes associated with hypertriglyceridemia among individuals with atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease and potential eligibility for emerging therapies,” was published in European Heart Journal today.

Author block: Patrick R. Lawler, Gynter Kotrri, Maria Koh, Shaun G. Goodman, Michael E. Farkouh, Douglas S. Lee, Peter C. Austin, Jacob A. Udell, and Dennis T. Ko.

ICES is an independent, non-profit research institute that uses population-based health information to produce knowledge on a broad range of healthcare issues. Our unbiased evidence provides measures of health system performance, a clearer understanding of the shifting healthcare needs of Ontarians, and a stimulus for discussion of practical solutions to optimize scarce resources. ICES knowledge is highly regarded in Canada and abroad, and is widely used by government, hospitals, planners, and practitioners to make decisions about care delivery and to develop policy. In October 2018, the institute formerly known as the Institute for Clinical Evaluative Sciences formally adopted the initialism ICES as its official name. For the latest ICES news, follow us on Twitter: @ICESOntario

Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre is inventing the future of healthcare for the 1.3 million patients the hospital cares for each year through the dedication of its more than 10,000 staff and volunteers. An internationally recognized leader in research and education and a full affiliation with the University of Toronto distinguishes Sunnybrook as one of Canada’s premier academic health sciences centres. Sunnybrook specializes in caring for high-risk pregnancies, critically-ill newborns and adults, offering specialized rehabilitation and treating and preventing cancer, cardiovascular disease, neurological and psychiatric disorders, orthopaedic and arthritic conditions and traumatic injuries. The Hospital also has a unique and national leading program for the care of Canada’s war veterans.

The Peter Munk Cardiac Centre (PMCC), established through the generous support of the Peter and Melanie Munk Charitable Foundation, is the premier cardiac centre in Canada. Since its opening, the PMCC has saved and improved the lives of cardiac and vascular patients from around the world. Each year, over 163,000 patients receive innovative and compassionate care from multidisciplinary teams in the PMCC, which trains more cardiologists, cardiovascular surgeons, and vascular surgeons than any other hospital in Canada. The PMCC is based at the Toronto General Hospital, Toronto Western Hospital and Toronto Rehabilitation Institute – all members of University Health Network. For more information, visit www.petermunkcardiaccentre.ca


Deborah Creatura
Media Advisor, ICES
[email protected]
(o) 416-480-4780 or (c) 647-406-5996

Katherine Nazimek
Communications Advisor, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre
[email protected]
(o) 416-480-4040

Rosa Kim
Senior Public Affairs Advisor, Peter Munk Cardiac Centre
[email protected]


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