Two fish-oil heart drugs fail in studies, leaving Amarin to dominate the market

Jan. 13, 2020

Two separate heart medications have fallen flat in clinical studies, leaving Amarin’s Vascepa to claim the current thrown of fish-derived cardio drugs.

AstraZeneca announced this week that it is stopping its clinical trial for Epanova, a fish-oil-derived drug made from omega-3 carboxylic acids. The decision was made on recommendation from an independent data monitoring committee that said the likelihood of patients receiving benefit from the medication was low. Epanova was being studied in a phase 3 trial to treat patients with mixed dyslipidemia, which can create a higher chance of having clogged arteries. 

Acasti Pharma also announced Monday that its krill-derived medication, CaPre, had failed to perform better than a placebo in reducing a type of fat that can increase the risk of heart diseases. According to the company, patients taking CaPre experienced a 36.7% median reduction in triglyceride levels, compared to a 28% reduction in those taking the placebo. Acasti said it would investigate the higher-than-expected triglyceride drop in placebo users and expects to have more results next month. 

Like Epanova, CaPre is made with a mix of two omega-3 fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Amarin’s fish-derived Vascepa, on the other hand, is comprised of only purified EPA. Although it is not the only fish-oil pill approved by the FDA to treat high levels of triglycerides, the drug has outperformed competitors, such as GlaxoSmithKline’s Lovaza, in clinical trials. In addition to its approval for treating high levels of triglycerides, Vascepa won the real prize last month with an expanded indication as a preventative medicine for heart attacks and strokes. Analysts expect sales for Vascepa to now reach blockbuster levels, and the company says that after this year, it will be pulling in “multiple billions of dollars” from the drug.