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Do you work for the pharmaceutical industry?

Posted Mar 24 2009 3:13pm
In response to my post, Lovaza Rip-off, I received this angry comment:

Very high triglycerides, as you all know, is a very serious and life-threatening condition. Therefore, it is very important that any medication you take for treatment must be FDA proven and scientifically backed. This is true for a few reasons. First, there have been zero studies done to show the effects of Costco brand fish oil pills on patients with high triglycerides. So, you cannot assume, simply because the pills you are taking "claim" to have a certain amount of Omega 3 in the them, that they actually do (supplement labeling is self-submitted by the company, and not regulated by any external or 3rd party agency).

Secondly, the other components in fish oil, and maybe in Costco brand (no one knows because it isn't on the label) can actually inhibit the bioavailablity of Omega 3, most notably, Omega 6. And, nowhere on the Costco label does it tell you how much Omega 6 is in it. We also cannot underestimate the importance of purity with these compounds: a top selling brand of fish oil found stores like CVS was recently recalled because it was found to have large amounts of fire retardant in it! These supplements are NOT regulated by the FDA.

Thirdly, be careful when you compare costs. The cost of hospitalization due to acute pancreatitis (a risk of very high triglycerides) far outweighs the cost of taking Lovaza for even several years. If you have a real disease, you need a real drug. And, until Costco does a prospective long-term clinical trial to show that it lowers triglycerides, it should not be used in place of Lovaza.

Finally, I am a living example of how taking a high-potency supplement form of Omega 3 barely lowered my triglycerides, yet within 2 weeks of being on Lovaza there was a significant difference. I am now at my goal. So, before you knock a company, that, in my opinion, has saved my life, please do your research and do not mislead people into thinking that an Omega 3 is an Omega 3 is an Omega 3. If your insurance covers the most potent, the most pure, and the ONLY proven Omega 3 pill on the market, you should be thankful.

The comment was posted anonymously, so I don't know who it came from. But I can tell who I think it is: Someone who works for the drug industry.

This is a common phenomenon: Large corporations are fearful of the comments that are generated on internet conversations and other media. On the internet, there are actually people whose job it is to do "damage control." I suspect this came from one of them.

Why bother? Surely there are better things to do? Well, that's easy. There are billions of dollars at stake. Lovaza, in particular, is sold on the perception that it is somehow superior. If word gets out that maybe you can achieve the same results at a fraction of the cost . . .

Perhaps the "commenter" should also question whether omega-3 fatty acids can come from eating fish.

As part of my cardiology practice, I provide consultation on complex hyperlipidemias, or unusual lipid abnormalities. I have many patients with something called familial hypertriglyceridemia, a genetic condition that permits triglyceride levels of 500, 1000, even many thousands of mg/dl, levels that, as the anonymous commenter points out, can be dangerous.

I virtually never prescribe Lovaza for these people. In their treatment program, I use simple fish oil supplements, such as that from Costco, Sam's Club, or other retailers. I have not witnessed a single failure in treating these people and reducing triglycerides. People with lesser triglyceride abnormalities likewise respond very nicely to inexpensive fish oil that we can buy at the health food store. (I do rely on useful services like Consumer Reports and to reassure us that no pesticide residues, mercury, or other contaminants are in the brands we use.) Excellent, high-quality fish oil supplements are sold by Carlson, Life Extension, Barlean's, even the Members' Mark brand from Sam's Club.

So, the notion that only prescription fish oil is capable of reducing triglycerides is, in a word, nonsense.

Take that back to your CEO.
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