Last night, I was reading in bed before I fell asleep. I was reading my favorite magazine, Sports Illustrated. I came across a pharmaceutical ad that caught my attention. It caught my attention because it was for fish oil. That’s right, prescription fish oil. It is made by GlaxoSmithKline and is being advertised to help lower blood triglycerides. It is made in 1 gram capsules and called Lovaza. I have three major problems with this.
Problem 1: The Dose
The dose of this fish oil pill is just one gram per capsule. This is far too low to have as much benefit as fish oil can have. While the “optimal dose” has yet to be determined for fish oil, 4-6 grams per day seems to be the most appropriate. This is also relative because every person is different and children will certainly need less than adults. Different conditions will require different dosages. Now, if you look at most fish oil supplements, a 1 gram capsule is about the average potency of any capsule across the board. So, why do I have a problem with the dose then? See my next point.
Problem 2: The Cost
This might be the most aggravating thing about pharmaceutical companies. They overcharge for everything! The cost of this fish oil supplement is outrageous! For a 120 capsule supply, GlaxoSmithKline sells this product for the low, low price of $174.83. That is roughly $1.46 per capsule. Now, let’s consider this in context with how much will need to be taken to be effective. Effective dosages of fish oil, as mentioned above is anywhere from 4-6 grams per day. Lovaza comes in 1 gram capsules. Let’s assume you are a patient and can get away with just 4g per day. That means you have to take 4 capsules per day to get your appropriate dose. If you take 4 capsules per day, the 120 capsule supply will last you exactly 30 days. So that means you will be spending $175 per month on your fish oil alone! I have patients who are on whole supplement regimes that don’t total $175 per month! Fish oil is available from reputable nutrition companies for a fraction of the cost. You can get a 120 count fish oil that is high quality and will produce the same effect on blood triglycerides for anywhere from $20-$40 per bottle. There is no reason to pay the astronomical prices that Big Pharma wants you to pay.
Problem 3: The Dietary Recommendations
As I continued to read the ad, it said that you must combine this with a low fat, low cholesterol diet in order to get the best results. This isn’t even true anymore. Study after study has shown that the best way to reduce triglycerides (the goal of Lovaza) is to lower carbohydrate totals in your diet. Triglycerides are a manifestation of insulin production in your system. To control them, you must control insulin and the only way to control insulin is to reduce carbohydrate intake. It is physiology at its simplest, but I would not expect the pharmaceutical industry to know that.
Take home point
Fish oil is hugely beneficial. It has such a wide variety of benefits and has over 8,000 published research articles behind it. It is no surprise that the pharmaceutical industry wants in on the action. They, by their nature, do not get it. There is no reason to pay $175 per bottle, when it is available for a fraction of the cost and is just as potent. As our government continues the healthcare debate and the cost continues to rise, consider why it is so high already. Maybe the price of pharmaceuticals is part of the problem? I know $175 fish oil is.