Prescription Fish Oil?

Matt walks in my office today and asks “Did you see the new commercial for the prescription fish oil.”  I had been on this companies website recently but until he came in I had forgotten all about it.  Our conversation got me thinking about the concept of a prescription fish oil.  For me it is a fairly mind-blowing concept.

So Why Prescription Fish Oil

You typically only see synthetic chemicals try to get approval as a prescription drug.  The main reason being that you can own a patent on a synthetic chemical.  It is expensive to get approval as a drug and you want to make sure you fully own the goods before spending all that money.   Your end product will have to be sold at astronomical margins to make back the original investment into the drug process.

For natural ingredients you can own the patent on processing but not on the ingredients.  That’s because you can’t patent something that is natural and already existed (that is of course unless you are Monsanto trying to get a monopoly on seed).  This is where it gets sticky.  If you don’t own the patent on the ingredient, other people can have that ingredient and boast similar properties to your now expensive raw material. 

This brings us back to our prescription fish oil.  Most of the research done on fish oil is for non pharmaceutical, regular old fish oil.  So if any one can sell fish oil and carry the same active ingredients as the ones found in the studies, then why all the work to become a pharmaceutical fish oil. 

Off-Label Prescriptions and Inflated Pricing

Two advantages I see for a company to do this: insurance coverage and doctor recommendations.  

When drugs are covered by pharmaceutical companies the real cost of the drug is hidden from most consumers.  I believe this is one reason why medical insurance rates and medical cost in general are through the roof.  We don’t pay when we get the prescription, but we pay plenty every month when we get our insurance bill.

The fact that it will be recommended by doctors could be a positive thing in some ways.  It is long past due for most doctors to recommend fish oil to their patients.  Only one problem here.  The prescription fish oil is only indicated for those with very high triglyceride levels.  That means most people that would benefit from fish oil aren’t really recommended to be prescribed this fish oil.

As a side note here I think there will be much confusion about when this fish oil should be prescribed.  Considering fish oil studies done on mood, brain function, healthy skin, joint health, and eye health did not use the prescription fish oil, it will be a stretch to recommend this form.  All of these uses would be considered off-label uses of the prescription fish oil.

Are There Any Advantages

So the last question you may have about prescription fish oil is the quality.  After all, purity and consistency are the main focus of most pharmaceutical companies.  The only problem here is when you are dealing with natural ingredients some of the procedures used to purify and concentrate may also destroy some of the beneficial properties.

Maybe I am just to grass roots or frugal but I am going to stick with good old health food store brands.  You can find a pure product without the pharmaceutical mark up.

You’ll Find This Ironic

One interesting final note.  The prescription fish oil Lovaza sold by GlaxoSmithKline was shown to increase LDL (bad) cholesterol 10%-46% from two separate studies.  The placebo group in both studies actually decreased LDL cholesterol.

PubMed Article