BACKGROUND: Japan EPA Lipid Intervention Study (JELIS) was a large-scale clinical trial examining the effects of eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) on coronary artery disease (CAD) in hypercholesterolemic patients. Herein, we focused on risk factors other than low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) to investigate the effects of EPA on CAD among JELIS primary prevention cases.

METHODS: Hypercholesterolemic patients on statin therapy but without evidence of CAD (n=14,981) were randomly assigned to an EPA group (n=7503) or a control group (n=7478). The relationships between incident CAD, the number of CAD risk factors (hypercholesterolemia; obesity; high triglyceride (TG) or low high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL-C); diabetes; and hypertension) and EPA treatment were investigated.

RESULTS: For the control and EPA groups combined, a higher number of risk factors was directly associated with an increased incidence of CAD. Incidence was lower for the EPA group than for the control group regardless of the numbers of risk factors. Compared to patients with normal serum TG and HDL-C levels, those with abnormal levels (TG >or=150 mg/dL; HDL-C <40 mg/dL) had significantly higher CAD hazard ratio (HR: 1.71; 95% CI: 1.11-2.64; P=0.014). In this higher risk group, EPA treatment suppressed the risk of CAD by 53% (HR: 0.47; 95% CI: 0.23-0.98; P=0.043).

CONCLUSIONS: Multiple risk factors besides cholesterol are associated with markedly increased incidence of CAD. High TG with low HDL-C represents a particularly potent risk factor. EPA was effective in reducing the incidence of CAD events for patients with this dyslipidemic pattern, suggesting that EPA may be especially beneficial in patients who with abnormal TG and HDL-C levels.