If you have high triglyceride levels, your doctor may recommend Vascepa.

Vascepa is a prescription medication used to:

  • help lower blood levels of triglycerides in adults with certain conditions
  • help lower the risk of heart problems in certain people

Vascepa is not used to treat pancreatitis, which is inflammation of the pancreas that can be caused by high triglycerides. This is because it’s unknown whether Vascepa helps lower the risk of pancreatitis in people with severely high triglycerides.

To learn more about high triglycerides and how Vascepa is used, see the “What is Vascepa used for?” section below.

Vascepa basics

Vascepa is a capsule that you swallow. It contains the active ingredient icosapent ethyl, which is a kind of omega-3 fatty acid. An active ingredient is what makes the drug work.

Read on to learn more about Vascepa’s uses, side effects, and more.

The active ingredient in Vascepa, icosapent ethyl, is also available as a generic version of Vascepa. (An active ingredient is what makes the drug work.) Generic drugs are usually less expensive than brand-name versions.

For information about the generic form of Vascepa, talk with your doctor.

Like most drugs, Vascepa may cause mild or serious side effects. The lists below describe some of the more common side effects that Vascepa may cause. These lists do not include all possible side effects.

Keep in mind that side effects of a drug can depend on:

  • your age
  • other health conditions you have
  • other medications you take

Your doctor or pharmacist can tell you more about the potential side effects of Vascepa. They can also suggest ways to help reduce side effects.

Mild side effects

Here’s a short list of some of the mild side effects that Vascepa can cause. To learn about other mild side effects, talk with your doctor or pharmacist or read Vascepa’s prescribing information.

Mild side effects of Vascepa that have been reported include:

Mild side effects of many drugs may go away within a few days to a couple of weeks. But if they become bothersome, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

* To learn more about this side effect, see the “Allergic reaction” section below.

Serious side effects

Serious side effects from Vascepa can occur, but they aren’t common. If you have serious side effects from Vascepa, call your doctor right away. But if you think you’re having a medical emergency, you should call 911 or your local emergency number.

Serious side effects of Vascepa that have been reported include:

* To learn more about this side effect, see the “Allergic reaction” section below.

Allergic reaction

Some people may have an allergic reaction to Vascepa. While allergic reaction wasn’t reported in studies of Vascepa, it can still happen.

Symptoms of a mild allergic reaction can include:

A more severe allergic reaction is rare but possible. Symptoms of a severe allergic reaction can include swelling under your skin, usually in your eyelids, lips, hands, or feet. They can also include swelling of your tongue, mouth, or throat, which can cause trouble breathing.

Call your doctor right away if you have an allergic reaction to Vascepa. But if you think you’re having a medical emergency, call 911 or your local emergency number.

Fish oil, which most people get from eating oily fish or taking fish oil supplements, is thought to have certain heart health benefits. This includes lowering high triglyceride levels, which is what Vascepa is used to treat.

Vascepa contains the active ingredient* icosapent ethyl, which is a modified form of an omega-3 fatty acid called eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Fish oil supplements and oily fish contain EPA and other omega-3 fatty acids, such as docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

Fish oil supplements can contain natural forms of oils from one or a variety of fish, including mackerel, salmon, trout, and tuna. As a result, such supplements may also contain certain toxins found in fish. This is not the case with Vascepa because it is not a fish oil.

For more information about how Vascepa compares with fish oil, see this article.

* An active ingredient is what makes the drug work.

Your doctor will recommend the dosage of Vascepa that’s right for you. Below are commonly used dosages, but always take the dosage your doctor prescribes.

Form

Vascepa comes as a capsule that you swallow.

Strengths: 0.5 gram and 1 gram

Vascepa capsules are available in strengths of 0.5 grams (gm) and 1 gm.

Recommended dosage

You’ll take 4 gm of Vascepa per day. You can take four 0.5-gm capsules twice each day or two 1-gm capsules twice each day. It’s recommended that you take Vascepa with food.

Questions about Vascepa’s dosage

Below are some common questions about Vascepa’s dosage.

  • What if I miss a dose of Vascepa? If you miss a dose of Vascepa, take it as soon as you remember. But if you’re close to your next dose, skip the dose entirely and take the next scheduled dose. If you’re unsure when to take Vascepa, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. Do not double your dose if you forgot to take Vascepa.
  • Will I need to use Vascepa long term? Yes, you may need to use Vascepa long term. High triglyceride levels can be a long lasting condition. And taking Vascepa long term can help manage triglyceride levels in your blood. If Vascepa is helping to lower your triglyceride levels and doesn’t cause bothersome side effects, your doctor may recommend taking it long term. To find out how long you’ll need to take Vascepa, talk with your doctor.
  • How long does Vascepa take to work? If you’re taking Vascepa to lower your triglyceride levels, it may take a few weeks to work. In studies, researchers saw an improvement in triglyceride levels after 12 weeks. But it can take longer for Vascepa to lower your risk of heart problems.

Vascepa is a prescription medication used to help lower blood levels of triglycerides in adults with certain indications. An indication is a condition that a drug is used to treat.

Vascepa is used in adults with:

  • Hypertriglyceridemia (high triglyceride levels). For this purpose, you’ll use the drug together with a low fat diet to help lower triglycerides.
  • High triglyceride levels and either a history of heart problems or diabetes plus two or more risk factors for heart problems. In this case, you’ll take the drug with a statin, a medication that decreases cholesterol. This drug combination can help lower your risk of heart problems.

Vascepa works by decreasing the body’s production of very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) triglycerides, a kind of fat produced by the liver. It also helps eliminate this fat from the body.

It is unclear how Vascepa helps decrease your risk of heart problems outside of lowering your triglyceride levels.

In addition, Vascepa is not used to treat pancreatitis, which is an inflammation of the pancreas that can be caused by high triglycerides. This is because it’s unknown whether Vascepa helps lower the risk of pancreatitis in people with severely high triglycerides.

Find answers to some commonly asked questions about Vascepa.

Is Lovaza an alternative to Vascepa?

Yes, in some cases, Lovaza may be used as an alternative to Vascepa. If you have hypertriglyceridemia (high triglyceride levels), your doctor may prescribe Vascepa or Lovaza with a low fat diet to decrease your triglyceride levels. But Vascepa can also help lower the risk of heart problems in certain people.

Lovaza and Vascepa contain different active ingredients.* Lovaza’s active ingredients are a combination of omega-3 ethyl esters, including eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Vascepa contains only one kind of omega-3 fatty acid, icosapent ethyl, which is a modified form of EPA.

Other alternatives for lowering triglyceride levels in people with hypertriglyceridemia include:

To learn about other alternatives to Vascepa, talk with your doctor or pharmacist.

* An active ingredient is what makes a drug work.

Does Vascepa cause weight loss or hair loss?

No, Vascepa does not cause weight loss or hair loss. These weren’t reported side effects in studies of Vascepa.

Your doctor may prescribe Vascepa with a low fat diet to help lower your triglyceride levels. Some people may lose weight because of changes in their diet.

Hair loss is a side effect of statin medications that you might take with Vascepa. Other treatments for lowering triglyceride levels, such as fibrates, may also cause hair loss.

If you’re concerned about weight loss or hair loss during Vascepa treatment, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. They can help determine the cause of these side effects and recommend treatments that may help.

Is Vascepa fish oil?

No, Vascepa isn’t fish oil. It contains icosapent ethyl, which is a modified version of EPA, a kind of omega-3 fatty acid found in fish oil.

Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids and other ingredients. Fish oil supplements can contain natural forms of oils from one or a variety of fish, including mackerel, salmon, trout, and tuna. As a result, supplements may also contain certain toxins found in fish. This is not the case with Vascepa, because it is not a fish oil.

It is unknown if people with allergies to fish or shellfish have an increased risk of allergy with Vascepa. Despite this, having a history of an allergic reaction to fish is a contraindication of Vascepa. (A contraindication is a factor or condition that could prevent your doctor from prescribing a drug due to risk of harm.) If you have allergies to fish or shellfish, tell your doctor before taking Vascepa.

For more about the differences between Vascepa and fish oil, see the “What should I know about Vascepa vs. fish oil?” section above.

Is Vascepa a blood thinner?

No, Vascepa isn’t a blood thinner. But it can block platelets, a kind of blood cell, from bunching up in your blood. When platelets attach to one another, they form blood clots. When platelets cannot do this, your risk of bleeding increases.

While Vascepa can make you bleed more easily, it’s uncertain whether this side effect is significant with Vascepa.

If you’re taking blood thinners such as aspirin or warfarin (Jantoven), let your doctor know before you start taking Vascepa. They may check you for bleeding during treatment.

What is Vascepa’s mechanism of action?

A mechanism of action is how a drug works. Vascepa works by lowering how much fat your liver produces. Your liver makes very low-density lipoprotein (VLDL) triglycerides, which increases the amount of triglycerides in your blood.

In addition, the drug can prevent your liver from releasing these triglycerides into your blood and also remove triglycerides from your blood.

These actions help lower the amount of triglycerides in people with high levels of this substance, which is one reason why doctors prescribe Vascepa. But Vascepa is also used to help lower the risk of heart problems in certain people. It is unclear how Vascepa works for this purpose.

Can Vascepa cause liver-related side effects?

No, liver-related side effects weren’t reported in studies of Vascepa. But the drug may affect your liver function if you already have problems with your liver.

These studies also didn’t explore whether Vascepa is safe for people with liver problems. If you have problems with your liver, your doctor may still prescribe Vascepa for you.

Your doctor will check your liver enzymes (a kind of protein) in your blood regularly while you’re taking Vascepa. An increase in liver enzymes may signal that your liver function is getting worse.

Symptoms of liver damage may include:

If you think your liver function is getting worse, talk with your doctor immediately. But do not stop taking Vascepa without talking with your doctor first.

Costs of prescription drugs can vary depending on many factors. These factors include what your insurance plan covers and which pharmacy you use. To find current prices for Vascepa in your area, visit GoodRx.com.

Vascepa is available as the generic drug icosapent ethyl. Generics usually cost less than brand-name drugs. Talk with your doctor if you’d like to know about taking generic icosapent ethyl.

If you have questions about how to pay for your prescription, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. For a couple of options that may help you save on the cost of Vascepa, visit this site.

You can also check out this article to learn more about saving money on prescriptions.

Certain factors can affect whether Vascepa is a good treatment option for you. These may include having specific medical conditions or taking certain medications. Read on to find out more about these factors.

Interactions

Taking a medication with certain vaccines, foods, and other things can affect how the medication works. These effects are called interactions.

Before taking Vascepa, be sure to tell your doctor about all medications you take, including prescription and over-the-counter types. Also, describe any vitamins, herbs, or supplements you use. Your doctor or pharmacist can tell you about any interactions these items may cause while you’re taking Vascepa.

For information about drug-condition interactions, see the “Warnings” section below.

Interactions with drugs or supplements

Vascepa can interact with several kinds of drugs. These include:

This list does not contain all types of drugs that may interact with Vascepa. Your doctor or pharmacist can tell you more about these interactions and any others that may occur with use of Vascepa.

Warnings

Vascepa may not be right for you if you have certain medical conditions. These are known as drug-condition interactions. Other factors may also affect whether Vascepa is a good treatment option for you.

Talk with your doctor about your health history before you take Vascepa. Factors to consider include those in the list below.

Atrial fibrillation or atrial flutter. Vascepa can cause atrial fibrillation or atrial flutter. If you have a history of these heart problems, your risk of atrial fibrillation or atrial flutter occurring with Vascepa increases. Both conditions can increase your risk of forming blood clots, which can cause a stroke or heart attack. Before starting Vascepa, tell your doctor about all your medical conditions, including any that affect your heart.

Liver problems. If you have liver failure, Vascepa may affect how well your liver functions. If you have liver problems, your doctor may still prescribe Vascepa for you. In this case, they’ll likely monitor your liver function regularly during treatment. If you think your liver function is getting worse during treatment, talk with your doctor immediately.

Allergic reaction. If you’ve had an allergic reaction to Vascepa or any of its ingredients, your doctor will likely not prescribe Vascepa. Having a history of allergic reactions to icosapent ethyl, any of Vascepa’s other ingredients, or fish is a contraindication of Vascepa. (A contraindication is a factor or condition that could prevent your doctor from prescribing a drug due to risk of harm.)

If you have allergies to fish or shellfish, tell your doctor before taking Vascepa. If you have an allergic reaction to Vascepa, talk with your doctor immediately. Your doctor may tell you to stop taking Vascepa. Ask them what other medications are better options for you.

Bleeding. Some people may have an increased risk of bleeding when taking Vascepa. This risk occurred more often in people taking medications for preventing blood clots, such as warfarin (Jantoven), aspirin, or clopidogrel (Plavix). Before taking Vascepa, tell your doctor about all medications you may be taking. If you think you’re bleeding inside your body, call 911 immediately.

Vascepa and alcohol

Some medications interact with alcohol, though Vascepa is not one of them. But before starting Vascepa, ask your doctor or pharmacist if it’s safe for you to drink alcohol.

Light to moderate alcohol consumption may lower the amount of triglycerides in your blood. But drinking too much alcohol can increase triglycerides. And many factors contribute to how alcohol affects your triglyceride levels, such as the kind of beverages you drink, your genes, and certain lifestyle factors.

If you consume alcohol, ask your doctor how much is safe for you to drink while taking Vascepa.

Pregnancy and breastfeeding

It is uncertain whether Vascepa is safe to take during pregnancy. If you’re pregnant or considering pregnancy, tell your doctor before starting Vascepa.

Studies have shown that omega-3 fatty acids can pass into breast milk. But it’s unknown how the presence of omega-3 fatty acids in breast milk may affect a breastfed child.

If you’re breastfeeding or considering breastfeeding, tell your doctor before starting Vascepa. They’ll help you weigh the benefits and risks of breastfeeding your child.

Your doctor will explain how you should take Vascepa. They’ll also explain how much to take and how often. Be sure to follow your doctor’s instructions.

Taking Vascepa

You’ll take Vascepa capsules by mouth twice per day with food. For more information about the drug’s dosage, see the “What is Vascepa’s dosage?” section above.

Accessible medication containers and labels

If it’s hard for you to read the label on your prescription, tell your doctor or pharmacist. Certain pharmacies may provide medication labels that:

  • have large print
  • use braille
  • contain a code you can scan with a smartphone to change the text into audio

Your doctor or pharmacist may be able to recommend a pharmacy that offers these options if your current pharmacy doesn’t.

Also, if you’re having trouble opening your medication bottles, let your pharmacist know. They may be able to put Vascepa in an easy-open container. Your pharmacist may also recommend tools to help make it simpler to open the drug’s container.

Taking Vascepa with other drugs

Your doctor may ask you to take Vascepa with a statin, a drug that helps decrease cholesterol. This drug combination helps lower your risk of heart problems if you have high triglyceride levels and:

  • heart problems or
  • diabetes plus two or more risk factors for heart problems

Examples of statins include:

To lower your risk of heart problems, your doctor may recommend taking aspirin, too. Both aspirin and Vascepa may increase your risk of bleeding, so taking them together further increases this risk. If you need to take both drugs, your doctor will check you for bleeding during Vascepa treatment.

Questions about taking Vascepa

Below are some common questions about taking Vascepa.

  • Can Vascepa be chewed, crushed, or split? No, you can’t chew, crush, or split capsules of Vascepa. You must swallow Vascepa capsules whole. If you’re having trouble swallowing Vascepa, see this article for a few strategies that may help. Your doctor can also give you tips about swallowing pills whole.
  • Should I take Vascepa with food? Yes, you should take Vascepa with food. You can take Vascepa either during your meal or immediately after eating.
  • Is there a best time of day to take Vascepa? There isn’t a best time of day to take Vascepa. But since you need to take it with food, you may find it convenient to take it with breakfast and supper.
Questions for your doctor

You may have questions about Vascepa and your treatment plan. It’s important to discuss all your concerns with your doctor.

Here are a few tips that might help guide your discussion:

  • Before your appointment, write down questions such as:
    • How will Vascepa affect my body, mood, or lifestyle?
  • Bring someone with you to your appointment if doing so will help you feel more comfortable.
  • If you don’t understand something related to your condition or treatment, ask your doctor to explain it to you.

Remember, your doctor and other healthcare professionals are available to help you. And they want you to get the best care possible. So, don’t be afraid to ask questions or offer feedback on your treatment.

Don’t take more Vascepa than your doctor prescribes. Taking more than this can lead to serious side effects. If you take too much Vascepa, your doctor may closely monitor you for signs and symptoms of overdose.

What to do in case you take too much Vascepa

Call your doctor if you think you’ve taken too much Vascepa. You can also call 800-222-1222 to reach the American Association of Poison Control Centers or use its online resource. But if you have severe symptoms, immediately call 911 or your local emergency number. Or go to the nearest emergency room.

If you have questions about taking Vascepa, talk with your doctor or pharmacist. Understanding how this drug may treat your condition will help you decide whether it’s a good option for you. Your doctor can also tell you about other treatments you can use for your condition. Here are a few questions you might want to ask your doctor about Vascepa:

  • Does Vascepa have a fishy aftertaste?
  • Do I need to store Vascepa in the refrigerator?
  • Can Vascepa cause any long-term side effects?

For more information about treatment options and lifestyle changes that might help lower your triglycerides, see these articles:

For advice on improving and managing your heart health, subscribe to Healthline’s online newsletter.

Q:

Can I take both fish oil supplements and Vascepa?

Anonymous

A:

Research studying the effects of omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil supplements has not confirmed its benefits.

Vascepa contains a modified form of a fat found in fish, but this medication isn’t the same as fish oil supplements. The health benefits of fish oil supplements and Vascepa may be different.

Fish oil supplements are usually safe but may not benefit everyone. And taking fish oil supplements may have risks such as side effects and drug interactions.

Taking a fish oil supplement with Vascepa may not improve your triglyceride levels or reduce your risk of heart problems. More information on the heart health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids is necessary.

Before taking any fish oil supplement with Vascepa, talk with your doctor.

The Healthline Pharmacist TeamAnswers represent the opinions of our medical experts. All content is strictly informational and should not be considered medical advice.

Disclaimer: Healthline has made every effort to make certain that all information is factually correct, comprehensive, and up to date. However, this article should not be used as a substitute for the knowledge and expertise of a licensed healthcare professional. You should always consult your doctor or another healthcare professional before taking any medication. The drug information contained herein is subject to change and is not intended to cover all possible uses, directions, precautions, warnings, drug interactions, allergic reactions, or adverse effects. The absence of warnings or other information for a given drug does not indicate that the drug or drug combination is safe, effective, or appropriate for all patients or all specific uses.