Vascepa (Icosapent Ethyl) – Oral

What Is Vascepa?

Vascepa contains icosapent ethyl, a modified form of the omega-3 fatty acid eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). It belongs to the class of medications called lipid-regulating agents, which help control elevated levels of lipids in people with hyperlipidemia (high levels of lipids in the blood).

Icosapent ethyl may work by reducing the levels of triglycerides and other fats made in the liver. Lifestyle changes such as eating a low-fat diet, exercising, managing your weight, and quitting smoking may help improve how well this treatment works.

It is a prescription medicine available in the form of oral capsules.

Drug Facts

Generic Name: Icosapent ethyl

Brand Name(s): Vascepa

Drug Availability: Prescription

Administration Route: Oral

Therapeutic Classification: Antihyperlipidemic (lipid-lowering agent)

Available Generically: Yes

Controlled Substance: N/A

Active Ingredient: Icosapent ethyl

Dosage Form(s): Capsule

What Is Vascepa Used For?

Vascepa is used with a low-fat, low-cholesterol diet to reduce triglycerides (fats) in adults with elevated triglyceride levels.

Vascepa is used jointly with other cholesterol-lowering medicines such as statins (e.g., atorvastatin, simvastatin) to reduce the risk of:

  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Unstable angina (a form of acute coronary syndrome that causes chest pain)
  • Coronary revascularization (a procedure to improve blood flow to the heart to treat coronary artery disease)
  • Other types of heart problems that require hospitalization in adults with high triglycerides with established heart disease or diabetes and other risk factors for heart disease

How to Take Vascepa

Follow the guidelines on your prescription label. Your healthcare provider or pharmacist will also tell you how to take this medication.

Vascepa comes as a liquid-filled gel capsule to take by mouth with food twice daily. Take your dose at around the same time each day. Do not take more, less, or more often than prescribed. Swallow the capsules whole; do not open, chew, crush, or dissolve them. Keep taking this medication even if you feel well.

Do not substitute icosapent ethyl with other omega-3 fatty acids or fish oil products, such as nonprescription, over-the-counter (OTC) products, without talking with your healthcare provider. Other substitutes may not contain the same amount and type of fatty acids.

Storage

Store the medicine at room temperature (68–77 degrees Fahrenheit), away from light and moisture. Do not store it in the bathroom. Keep all medications locked away from the sight and reach of children and pets.

Do not keep unwanted or expired medication with you. Do not throw medicines in the trash, flush them down the toilet, or pour them into a drain unless instructed to do so. The best way to discard unused medication is through a treatment take-back program. Talk to your pharmacist or local waste disposal company regarding this program in your area.

How Long Does Vascepa Take to Work?

 Vascepa is intended for long-term treatment. Clinical studies show that it takes at least one year to produce a substantial difference to start reducing cardiovascular risk.

What Are the Side Effects of Vascepa?

This is not a complete list of side effects and others may occur. A healthcare provider can advise you on side effects. If you experience other effects, contact your healthcare provider. You may report side effects to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) at fda.gov/medwatch or 800-FDA-1088.

Common Side Effects

Some common side effects of Vascepa are:

Call your healthcare provider if any of the side effects become severe or do not go away.

Severe Side Effects

Vascepa can cause some severe side effects. Contact your healthcare provider or get emergency medical treatment if you have any of these symptoms:

  • Fast and irregular heartbeat
  • Light-headedness or dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest discomfort
  • Feeling faint
  • Allergic reaction (rashes, hives, itching, difficulty breathing or swallowing)
  • Unusual bruising or bleeding

Report Side Effects

Vascepa may cause other side effects. Call your healthcare provider if you have any unusual problems while taking this medication.

If you experience a serious side effect, you or your provider may send a report to the FDA's MedWatch Adverse Event Reporting Program or by phone (800-332-1088).

Dosage: How Much Vascepa Should I Take?

Drug Content Provided and Reviewed by IBM Micromedex®

The dose of this medicine will be different for different patients. Follow your doctor's orders or the directions on the label. The following information includes only the average doses of this medicine. If your dose is different, do not change it unless your doctor tells you to do so.

The amount of medicine that you take depends on the strength of the medicine. Also, the number of doses you take each day, the time allowed between doses, and the length of time you take the medicine depend on the medical problem for which you are using the medicine.

  • For oral dosage form (capsules):
    • For high triglycerides or fats in the blood:
      • Adults—4 grams per day, to be taken as four 0.5 gram capsules two times a day with food, or as two 1 gram capsules two times a day with food.
      • Children—Use and dose must be determined by your doctor.

Modifications

If you have liver disease, your healthcare provider may need to monitor your alanine aminotransferase (ALT) and aspartate aminotransferase (AST) levels while you're on Vascepa.

Missed Dose

Take the missed dose as soon as you remember. If it is nearly time for your next dose, ignore the missed dose. Take your following dose at the regular time. Never double up the amount to make up for the missed dose.

Overdose: What Happens If I Take Too Much Vascepa?

Call the Poison Control Center or a healthcare provider immediately if you think you have taken too much Vascepa. Seek emergency medical attention if you experience any side effects from overdosing on Vascepa.

What Happens If I Overdose on Vascepa?

If you think you or someone else may have overdosed on Vascepa, call a healthcare provider or the Poison Control Center (800-222-1222).

If someone collapses or isn't breathing after taking Vascepa, call 911 immediately.

Precautions

Drug Content Provided and Reviewed by IBM Micromedex®

It is very important that your doctor check your progress at regular visits to make sure that this medicine is working properly. Blood tests may be needed to check for unwanted effects.

This medicine may increase your risk of heart rhythm problems (eg, atrial fibrillation, atrial flutter). Call your doctor right away if you feel dizzy or faint, or have a fast, pounding, or uneven heartbeat.

This medicine may increase your chance of bleeding. To help with this problem, stay away from rough sports or other situations where you could be bruised, cut, or injured. Brush and floss your teeth gently. Be careful when using sharp objects, including razors and fingernail clippers.

Do not take other medicines unless they have been discussed with your doctor. This includes prescription or nonprescription (over-the-counter [OTC]) medicines and herbal or vitamin supplements.

Tell your doctor if you drink alcohol. Alcohol intake may cause lipid (fat-like substance) disorders.

What Are Reasons I Shouldn’t Take Vascepa?

Do not take Vascepa if you have a known hypersensitivity to icosapent ethyl or any of the ingredients in Vascepa.

Vascepa has not been studied in pregnant and breastfeeding people. The decision to use Vascepa while pregnant or breastfeeding should be made with your healthcare provider by weighing the benefits of taking the medication vs. the possible risks.

What Other Medications Interact With Vascepa?

Some studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids taken with anticoagulant or antiplatelet agents (blood thinners) can cause prolonged bleeding.

What Medications Are Similar?

Other FDA-approved omega-3 fatty acid medications include:

  • Vascepa, containing the active ingredient icosapent ethyl or ethyl ester of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)
  • Lovaza (omega-3-acid ethyl esters), containing EPA and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA)
  • Epanova (omega-3-carboxylic acids), containing EPA, DHA, and docosapentaenoic acid

Vascepa and Lovaza are similar in how they lower triglycerides. They are also generally well tolerated. One significant difference is that Vascepa does not affect low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (considered "bad" cholesterol) levels in the body; however, Lovaza can increase LDL levels in some people. The choice of medication will be made by your healthcare provider and may depend on your risk factors for heart disease.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is Vascepa used for?

    Vascepa contains icosapent ethyl, an omega-3 fatty acid, and is used in combination with a low fat, low cholesterol diet. It reduces the risk of heart attack, unstable angina, stroke, and other types of heart problems requiring hospitalization in people with high triglycerides.

  • How does Vascepa work?

    Icosapent ethyl is an antilipemic medication, also known as a lipid-regulating agent. It may work by decreasing triglycerides and other fats in the body when used along with a healthy diet.

  • What drugs should not be taken with Vascepa?

    Blood-thinning medicines, such as Coumadin or Jantoven (warfarin), should be used with caution when taking Vascepa. Tell your healthcare provider about your current medications.

  • What are the side effects of Vascepa?

    The most common side effects of Vascepa reported in studies include joint and muscle pain, peripheral edema, constipation, gout, and atrial fibrillation.

  • How do I stop taking Vascepa?

    Vascepa is a long-term treatment. Take your medicine regularly to get the maximum benefits. Do not stop taking it even if you feel well.

  • What should I avoid while taking Vascepa?

    Avoid eating a fat-rich diet. Instead, incorporate more low-cholesterol foods into your diet. Vascepa will be more effective if you take the capsules with a diet low in cholesterol.

How Can I Stay Healthy While Taking Vascepa?

Vascepa does not treat heart diseases but reduces the risk of disease due to high triglycerides. This particular omega-3 fatty acid derivative is used as a part of a therapy that includes lifestyle change.

To get the desired benefit from the treatment, it is essential to eat a healthy and low-fat diet, exercise regularly, and continue therapy as prescribed. Keep all the appointments with your healthcare provider so that they can appropriately monitor your treatment. Vascepa requires long-term treatment to improve your symptoms.

Medical Disclaimer

Verywell Health's drug information is meant for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment from a healthcare provider. Consult your healthcare provider before taking any new medication(s). IBM Watson Micromedex provides some of the drug content, as indicated on the page.

6 Sources
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. MedlinePlus. Icosapent ethyl.

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  4. Food and Drug Administration. Vascepa label.

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  6. Crandell JR. Switching from epa + dha (omega-3-acid ethyl esters) to high-purity epa (icosapent ethyl) in a statin-treated patient with persistent dyslipidemia and high cardiovascular risk: a case study. Clin Med Insights Cardiol. 2016;10:123-128. doi:10.4137/CMC.S38123