Although some data have suggested that omega-3 fatty acid supplements, such as from fish oil, may improve treatment of atrial fibrillation, a randomized trial with more than 600 patients finds that treatment with high-dose prescription omega-3 did not reduce the recurrence of atrial fibrillation over six months, according to a study that will appear in the December 1 issue of JAMA. The study is being released early online because it will be presented at the American Heart Association's annual meeting.
"Atrial fibrillation (AF) is a highly prevalent disease that is responsible for reduced quality of life, costly hospitalizations, heart failure, stroke, and death. No current therapy, drug, device, or ablation [removal of tissue or cells] is uniformly effective, and several available therapies have the potential to cause harm. Consequently, useful alternatives are being sought," the authors write. "Limited data from small trials suggest omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids may provide a safe, effective treatment option for AF participants."
Peter R. Kowey, M.D., of the Lankenau Institute for Medical Research, Wynnewood, Pa., and colleagues conducted a randomized clinical trial to assess the efficacy of a pure prescription formulation of omega-3 fatty acids (prescription omega-3), at a dose considerably higher than what has been tested in previous trials, for preventing recurrent atrial fibrillation. The study included 663 U.S. outpatient participants with confirmed symptomatic paroxysmal (sudden attacks) (n = 542) or persistent (n = 121) AF, with no substantial structural heart disease, who were recruited from November 2006 to July 2009 (final follow-up was January 2010). Participants received prescription omega-3 (8 grams/day) or placebo for the first 7 days; prescription omega-3 (4 grams/day) or placebo thereafter through week 24.
After 6 months of follow-up, the researchers found that in the paroxysmal group, there were 129 docu
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