Fish oil is growing in popularity all the time, especially with the recent press how it can prevent cardiovascular problems along with other health issues. Recently, even the pharmaceutical companies have jumped on the fish oil bandwagon with the production of fish oil medications that are prescribed by a doctor to get their part of the profits. Are these medications more effective though than the natural fish oil supplements?
What is Lovaza?
Lovaza is a prescription medication made out of omega-3 fish oil. GSK (GlaxoSmithKline) manufactures and markets this medication. This is the first prescription medication based on fish oil in the US. It is for lowering triglyceride levels in people with levels of more than 500 mg/dL. High triglyceride level causes cardiovascular disease among other things. Lovaza contains both DHA and EPA ingredients in each gram of it.
Lovaza is basically safe to take with just a low risk of side effects. However it does have some drawbacks, or shall I say limits of what it can do such as the following:
- This medication might increase bad cholesterol in the process of trying to lower triglycerides.
- The FDA only approves this medication for patients with extremely high levels of triglycerides of more than 500 mg/dL. The greater percentage of patients with high triglyceride levels average from 200 to 500 mg/dL.
- It takes four capsules daily for a total dose of 4 grams. Patients have difficulty remembering one capsule a day let along four.
- GSK states that it has yet to prove that Lovaza prevents strokes or heart attacks.
What is Amarin?
Amarin is a biopharmaceutical company that is developing a possible epic fish oil medication going by the name of AMR101 at the moment. This medication differs from Lovaza in the fact that is mainly contains EPA instead of both EPA and DHA. In a study in 2010, AMR101 proved it lowers extremely high triglyceride levels without raising the bad cholesterol significantly. This is the Marine Trial. The ANCHOR Trial showed positive results with AMR101 with patients, who had 200 mg/dL to 500 mg/dL that were on statin therapy. It once again lowered the triglyceride levels without substantially raising the bad cholesterol. As of this research Amarin was waiting for the FDA to approve AMR101. Research continues on AMR101.
AMR101 Treatment Compared to Lovaza Treatment
This anchor test proves AMR101 fills the gap left open in the Lovaza treatment. It is ideal for those patients with triglyceride readings of 200 mg/dL to 500 mg/dL whereas Lovaza is only recommended for those patients with extremely high triglyceride levels. I can see that this will help many more patients. AMR101 also does not substantially raise the bad cholesterol levels as Lovaza does and even carries a warning about it.
Drug Fish Oil versus Fish Oil Supplements
Are the drug fish oil capsules better than the fish oil supplements? This is not an easy question to answer. I think we must look at both to see how they compare to each other to find the answer.
First, many people decide to take fish oil supplements because they are convenient, inexpensive in price and no prescription is needed. In addition, both the drug and supplement form of fish oil is made from the same raw materials. I know you are wondering what the difference is then between the two.
The difference is that many of the cheaper retail-sold fish oil supplements may not have the same level of omega-3 as Lovaza or the new Amarin drug. However, you can still find other brands of fish oil supplements that are pharmaceutical grade for sale in health food stores and online that have the same e-manufacturing quality as the drug fish oil.
The least expensive fish oil capsule is what you find in your local retail stores. It only has 30% omega-3 fatty acids in it and the rest is fish fat. This leaves room for this product not to be as pure are higher-grade brands, which could mean lead and mercury contamination. These products just may not be pure enough to take. Some may not have any of the active ingredients you are looking for and you will just be throwing your money away. There are triple strength versions of the capsules, but these only contain 60% omega-3 fatty acids and 40% fish fat. There is still the same problem with these as with the cheapest brands described above.
Fish oil capsules that are pharmaceutical grade have over 85% omega-3 in them some brands even more than 85%. 85% is the same amount Lovaza has. These go through a purification process that eliminates mercury and other heavy metals. Both Lovaza and the pharmaceutical brands contain EPA and DHA. The pharmaceutical brands though have less burp factor than Lovaza as just one of the good points I would like to point out. Another point I need to make is price difference, Lovaza cost about $8 a day without health insurance. The pharmaceutical-grade fish oil capsules only cost $1.20 per day to take. You can easily see why you need to choose a high-quality fish oil supplement to take by the information here.
What is the Boundary Line between a Drug and Natural Supplement?
Have you ever wondered what makes one item a natural health supplement, and another a pharmaceutical drug? The answer to this question is not really a clear one, but I will try to explain.
As an example, look at the new omega-3 prescription medication for people with high triglycerides. It is only supposed to be fish oil. Not as GSK is concerned, this company states that you cannot get this product at any health food store. That it is the first and only (at this time) omega-3 medication approved by the FDA according to GSK. It is important to not it is called a medication and not a supplement only because it is approved by the FDA.
Lovaza is touted as better than any of the high-quality OTC (over-the-counter) omega-3 supplements on the market, but is it? According to GSK it truly is because of the proprietary concentration and purification techniques the company uses, but I have yet to see clinical proof of this. The medication as it is deemed is more pricy than the supplements, but on the upside insurance will more than likely cover the at least part of the cost.
In each gram-size capsule of Lovaza there is 375 mg of the DHA and 465 mg of the EPA, which is more than what is contained in a single soft gel of the OTC fish oil supplements. However, by taking more of the supplements, you could get the same benefits of fish oil supplements. It seems to me that the Lovaza is only considered a medication because the FDA deems it to be one.
To learn more about how fish oil supplements compare to Lovaza check out the information at Fish Oil Buying Guide.