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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

People’s Pharmacy: EPA in fish oil is good for the brain

This undated photo provided by Amarin in November 2018 shows a capsule of the purified, prescription fish oil Vascepa. On Dec. 13, 2019, U.S. regulators approved expanded use of the medication for preventing serious heart complications in high-risk patients already taking cholesterol-lowering pills.  (Amarin)
By Joe Graedon, M.S.,</p><p>and Teresa Graedon, Ph.D. KING FEATURES SYNDICATE

Q. What do you think of Vascepa? I understand that it is a kind of purified fish oil with only EPA. That means it has no contaminants, such as mercury. EPA is a strong anti-inflammatory. It contains no DHA, and there’s no risk of it being rancid.

A. Vascepa (icosapent ethyl) is a highly purified form of the omega-3 fatty acid eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Doctors prescribe it to lower triglyceride levels and reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Many consumers opt for over-the-counter fish oil capsules to reduce inflammation. Such products often contain EPA and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid).

A new study suggests that EPA-rich supplements improve performance on tests of verbal fluency, word recall, reaction time and numeric working memory, as well as rapid visual information processing (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, September). This study was conducted with fish oil from BASF and not with Vascepa.

Side effects of Vascepa include an increased risk of atrial fibrillation or excessive bleeding. Other complications may include muscle and joint pain, gout, edema and constipation.

Q. Have you heard of any Food and Drug Administration concerns with Revlimid coming from pharmaceutical companies in India? The price in the U.S. is outrageous, especially for a senior citizen.

A. We understand your dilemma. Revlimid (lenalidomide) is a critical medicine for the treatment of the blood cancer multiple myeloma. In the U.S., each pill can cost as much as $800. The normal cycle requires 21 days of treatment a month. That could lead to a bill of around $17,000. Even with insurance, the copay might be huge.

The FDA has not been able to inspect most foreign manufacturing plants since early in the pandemic. As a result, it’s difficult to verify the quality of many medications produced abroad. Your physician will need to monitor your progress carefully to make certain that the medicine is working as anticipated.

One other option may be to seek financial help. Several patient-assistance programs provide significant discounts for underinsured or low-income individuals on Revlimid. Each has its own eligibility requirements, but your oncologist might have someone on staff who could help you sort through them.

Q. I took lisinopril for three days and had an angioedema reaction. Luckily, the doctors in the emergency room diagnosed it quickly. They said they see this kind of reaction from lisinopril quite often.

This is one of the most frightening experiences I’ve ever had. My throat swelled shut. They pumped me full of steroids and kept me overnight for observation. The specialist I saw afterward said he also sees this pretty often.

A. Lisinopril is the most commonly prescribed blood pressure medicine in the U.S. Many people tolerate it reasonably well. The most common side effect is a persistent cough that does not respond to treatment. It can be incredibly disruptive and keep people awake at night.

The angioedema complication you experienced is indeed potentially life-threatening, as it can interfere with breathing. When the swelling occurs in the digestive tract, it can cause intestinal obstruction.

You will need a different type of BP medicine. To learn more about the pros and cons of various drugs and nonpharmaceutical approaches, you may wish to read our eGuide to Blood Pressure Solutions. This online resource can be found under the Health eGuides tab at

Contact Joe and Teresa Graedon via their website