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Lovaza Rip-off

Posted Dec 20 2008 5:45pm 5 Comments
Lovaza is GlaxoSmithKline's prescription fish oil, an ethyl ester modification to allow higher concentration of omega-3 fatty acids, EPA + DHA, per capsule. Each capsule contains 840 mg EPA + DHA.

It is FDA-approved for treatment of high triglycerides (>500 mg/dl). In their marketing, they claim "Unlike LOVAZA, dietary supplements are not FDA approved to treat any disease." They also highlight the "patented five-step" purification process that eliminates any concerns over mercury or pesticide residues.

What does Lovaza cost? In Milwaukee, it costs about $70 per capsule per month (PCPM). Most people are taking four capsules per day: $280 per month, or $3360 per year to obtain 3360 mg of EPA + DHA per day. (Funny coincidence with the numbers.)

Did you catch that? $3360 per year, just for one person to take Lovaza.

What if I instead went to Costco and bought their high-potency fish oil. This is also an ethyl ester form. It costs $14.99 for 180 capsules, or $2.50 PCPM; each capsule contains 684 mg EPA + DHA. I would therefore have to take five capsules per day to obtain the same 3360 mg EPA + DHA per day. This would cost me 5 x $2.50 = $12.50 per month, or $150 per year.

$3360 per year vs. $150 per year to obtain the same dose of omega-3 fatty acids, or a 22.4-fold difference.

Lovaza is FDA-approved for treatment of high triglycerides. But I am seeing more and more people take it for other reasons at this four-capsule-per-day dose. Regardless, this "drug" is adding $3360 per year costs to our healthcare. A school teacher, for instance, recently commented to me that she didn't care about the costs, since her insurance (in Milwaukee county, teachers have unbelievably generous healthcare coverage) covers Lovaza. I've heard this from others: insurance covers it, so they don't care how much it costs.

Guess who eventually has to pay the $3360 per year per person costs? Yup, you and me. We all bitch and moan about the costs of healthcare and health insurance, but many of us are more than willing to shift the costs to our friends and neighbors to save a few bucks. You think Lipitor makes a bundle of money for Pfizer at about $120 per month? Lovaza is making a bundle of money for GlaxoSmithKline, and all because people are cheap and willing to selfishly shift costs to other people.

Keep in mind that $3360 per year is just for fish oil. It's not for surgery, it's not for hospital care, it's just for stinking fish oil.
Comments (5)
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Please remember that the use of Lovaza is a choice that consumers choose.  I too have been blessed to have very good health insurance, but its a choice I have made.  I pay for this coverage with higher that average bi-weekly deductions from my salary. I purchased health insurance to use it when needed. If you believe that over the counter fish oils are beneficial, then go and prescribe.  But what are you getting?  Yes Lovaza is too expensive, but because it is prescription strength and monitored and approved by the FDA I know that it is fish oil.  What is it at Costco? Or Walgreens or the Dollar Tree?  Whats the expiration date?  Does it have a lot number?  When was the last time you heard of a re-call on overcounter anything? Somehow these manufacturers never make a mistake.  Never have batches that have too much of an active ingredient?  Or too little. Who do you call when you have a question about the manufacturing.  The stocker at Costco or the high school senior working part-time at Walgreens. Yes healthcare cost are expensive.  But lets remember I have worked hard in life to be blessed to acheive this level of income to afford this insurance.  I have the right to use it.  Are you willing to guarantee that i will receive the same or better results with the other fish oils? I take Lovaza and have taken the over-the-counter fish oils.  I have seen a dramatic reduction in my high triglycerides  and I will continue to exercise my choice to use this medication.

My doctor recently prescribed Lovaza and provided a "copay card" for an up-to-$20/mo discount at the pharmacy.  Currently unemployed, I have a PPO health plan for which I pay 100%.  He described Lovaza as superior to the generic fish oil tabs I've been taking, and the copay card discount may bring the cost down to "about the same" as the generics when compared on an active ingredient (EPA & DHA) basis.

REALITY:  My discounted cost for 1 month supply of Lovaza (120 tabs = 4/day) was $40.74.  At my prescribed dosage of 4 pills daily (3,360mg/day of DHA+EPA)  my pill cost per month (PCPM) is $10.20.   The most expensive of 3 OTC generics I subsequently examined (Spring Valley brand, Walmart prod ID#10316851) - adjusted for an equivalent daily dosage of EPA & DHA at 3,420mg/daily - is $4.17 PCPM.  Less than half that of Lovaza.  How many pills of the Spring Valley OTC product above would you think I need to take daily to equal the EPA+DHA load of 4 "prescription-strength" Lovazas?  Tens?  Hundreds? 


I won't be renewing my Lovaza prescription and I will be showing my figures to & telling everyone I know - starting with my doctor - that I think prescription fish oil is a rip-off *even when discounted*!  To people like  "gb b." who think they have "earned" some specious "right" to irrational market behavior which contributes to drug price inflation for everyone:  no single raindrop believes it is responsible for the flood, either. 

Doc,  I totally agree with you in regards to what a joke Lovaza is...but fact that you even mention or compare EPA/DHA from Costco suggests that you should never give advice in regards to nutrition!  My oh my, do the research and find out how impure that content is (from Walmart, Costco, Sams, etc.) compared to the likes of purecaps, metagenics, artic naturals, etc.  You obviously have no education in regards to nutrition.  However, keep up the great work speaking out against Lovaza!  I couldn't agree more!

Lovaza works because it has about 850 mg of Omega-3 EPA+DHA per pill.  10 years ago, it would have been superior to just about every OTC fish oil pill available. But not anymore. There are at least half a dozen supplements that provide more Omega-3 per pill.  And some of them are IFOS 5-star rated, USP approved quality. For those who still believe that Lovaza is superior, here is a comparison table: 

Spout your comparison tables all you want, but do you have any personal experience taking Lovaza vs. OTC fish oil? I do, and in my case, considerably better than OTC.

I have been battling my Trigs for over 25 yrs. There is a genetic glitch from my mother's side of the family. Long story short - my trig level has been as high as 3200, yes 3200. My older brother broke 5000 nearly 30 yrs ago. He went through every experimental program the Cleveland Clinic could find. Choosing not to be someone's experiment, I have chosen to stick with the known helpful drugs and am currently on a 3 drug regimen - Lovaza, Niaspan, and Pravastatin. Along with a sensible diet (I eat everything, have learned moderation) and these 3 drugs I can maintain a level between 160 & 220. OTC fish oil (regardless of brand - I have paid as little as $8 a bottle up to $30) taken with Niaspan and Pravastatin gets me a level of 700 - 800. Drop fish oil entirely and it hovers around 1050 - 1100. My blood work is done every 90 days, and I've been on Lovaza for almost 2 yrs. If you have a decent RX plan the out of pocket is no more than a premium OTC.  Currently my monthly out of pocket is $21.75.

Sorry fjohnson, gbb has a very valid point - exactly what is in these OTCs? Where did the come from, China, India, Bangladesh? At least with GlaxoSmithKline I know who I can attempt to sue if I become seriously ill. Five OTC fish oils is nothing, try taking 4, 3 times a day - not as cheap as you think.

Really, I wish I could join the negative bandwagon. Nothing worse than drug companies, insurance, and big oil for raping the general public, but I will stick up for a product that works for me.

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