Fish Oil for Ulcerative Colitis?

A small randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study (E Scaioli et al. Clin Gastroenterol Hepatol 2018; 16: 1268-75) examined the use of Eicosapentaenoic acid-Free Fatty Acid Form (EPA-FFA) a component of n-3 fish oil for patients with ulcerative colitis UC).

From 2014-2016, the investigators enrolled 60 patients who had partial Mayo score <2 and fecal calprotectin >150 mcg/g who had been receiving stable therapy for at least 3 months.  Then they were randomized 1:1 to receive EPA 1000 mg BID or placebo for 6 months.

Key findings:

  • 19 of 30 (63%) EPA-FFA group compared with 4 of 30 (13.3%) of placebo-treated group had achieved the primary endpoint of a 100-point reduction in fecal calprotectin at 6 months.  OR 12.0, P<.001
  • The secondary endpoint of clinical remission was noted in 23 of 30 (77%) in the EPA-FFA group compared with 15 of 30 (50%), OR 3.29, P=.035)
  • No serious adverse effects were reported.


  • Small number of patients from a single center
  • Short follow-up
  • In those without clinical relapse, a followup colonoscopy was not performed

My take: In this study EPA-FFA was associated with lower calprotectin and higher rates of remaining in remission.  More data are needed.

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Disclaimer: These blog posts are for educational purposes only. Specific dosing of medications (along with potential adverse effects) should be confirmed by prescribing physician.  This content is not a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment provided by a qualified healthcare provider. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a condition.

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Omega-3 Fatty Acids and Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease

A recent study (Janczyk W. J Pediatr 2015; 166: 1358-63; editorial 1335-6) examines whether omega-3 fatty acid supplement would be helpful for overweight/obese children with nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD).  This randomized controlled trial had 64 patients complete the study; the median age of enrolled patients was 13 years.

Free Full Text Article: Omega-3 Fatty Acids Therapy in Children with Nonalcoholic Fatty Liver Disease: A Randomized Controlled Trial

The treatment cohort received doscosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapenatenoic acid (EPA) at a dose of 450-1300 mg/day.

Key finding:

  • After 6 months, omega-3 fatty acid supplementation did not increase the number of patients with decreased ALT levels and it did not affect liver steatosis on ultrasound.

The editorial reviews a previous positive study for DHA supplementation from Italy (n=60) but notes that other larger trials in adults have not shown efficacy of omega-3 fatty acids (Gastroenterol 2014; 147: 377-84.e1, Hepatology 2014; 60: 1211-21). It could be that much longer studies will be needed to determine whether omega-3 fatty acids will be helpful.

Take-home message: Overall, the sum of these studies indicates that supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids has not been shown to be effective for NAFLD and it is not likely to be a significant breakthrough.  Even if it were shown to help modestly, would pediatric patients be placed on therapy indefinitely?

Briefly noted:

Kusters DM et al. “Efficacy and Safety of Ezetimibe Monotherapy in Children with Heterozygous Familial and Nonfamilial Hypercholesterolemia” J Pediatr 2015; 166: 1377-84.  Ezetimbe (10 mg), a cholesterol absorption inhibitor, lowered LDL by 27% after 12 weeks from baseline. It was well-tolerated

Telaprevir-Based HCV Therapy is Expensive Too

With the arrival of newer expensive hepatitis C virus (HCV) therapies, there has been an effort to prove that the costs are within reason.  One study (Hepatology 2014; 60: 1187-95) looking at this issue examines the cost of a sustained virological response (SVR) with the previous best therapy: Telaprevir-Based Triple Therapy.

Design: Records from 147 patients who received telaprevir-based triple therapy in 2011 were reviewed.

According to the authors (supported by Gilead Sciences), median cost of care was $83,721 per patient and the median cost per SVR was $189,338.  The costs of two of the drugs, telaprevir and pegylated interferon, accounted for 85% of the total costs.  Other costs included adverse management (8%), ribavirin (4%), professional fees (2%), and laboratory fees (1%).

The main reason besides pharmaceutical prices for the high costs were the SVR rate of 44%.

Bottomline: If a patient requires HCV therapy, the newer, more effective, expensive agents are likely to compare favorably with the less new, less effective, expensive medications.

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Also noted: Hepatology 2014; 60: 1211-21.  “WELCOME” Study tested whether 15-18 months of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) plus eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) decreased liver fat and histology in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD). n=101, with 51 in treatment group. Findings the DHA+EPA had a “trend toward improvement in liver fat” percentage but no improvement in fibrosis.