Trials have shown a beneficial effect of n−3 polyunsaturated fatty acids in patients with a previous myocardial infarction or heart failure. We evaluated the potential benefit of such therapy in patients with multiple cardiovascular risk factors or atherosclerotic vascular disease who had not had a myocardial infarction.
In this double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial, we enrolled a cohort of patients who were followed by a network of 860 general practitioners in Italy. Eligible patients were men and women with multiple cardiovascular risk factors or atherosclerotic vascular disease but not myocardial infarction. Patients were randomly assigned to n−3 fatty acids (1 g daily) or placebo (olive oil). The initially specified primary end point was the cumulative rate of death, nonfatal myocardial infarction, and nonfatal stroke. At 1 year, after the event rate was found to be lower than anticipated, the primary end point was revised as time to death from cardiovascular causes or admission to the hospital for cardiovascular causes.
Of the 12,513 patients enrolled, 6244 were randomly assigned to n−3 fatty acids and 6269 to placebo. With a median of 5 years of follow-up, the primary end point occurred in 1478 of 12,505 patients included in the analysis (11.8%), of whom 733 of 6239 (11.7%) had received n−3 fatty acids and 745 of 6266 (11.9%) had received placebo (adjusted hazard ratio with n−3 fatty acids, 0.97; 95% confidence interval, 0.88 to 1.08; P=0.58). The same null results were observed for all the secondary end points.
In a large general-practice cohort of patients with multiple cardiovascular risk factors, daily treatment with n−3 fatty acids did not reduce cardiovascular mortality and morbidity.