Prescription fish oils exist. Are they any different than the fish oils you’d buy over the counter?

What’s This I Hear About A Prescription Fish Oil?

If you’ve turned on your television at all during the last few months, chances are you’ve seen a few dozen commercials for a product called Lovaza “the only FDA-approved medication made from omega-3 fish oil!”  The ad makes sure to point out that Lovaza is not available in health food stores.

Of course, omega-3s from fish oil are available in health food stores just none of them are called “Lovaza.”  So it begs the question: what, exactly, makes Lovaza so special? 

To begin with, the price makes Lovaza special very special.  When I look at our selection of omega-3 supplements and we’ve got a great variety, at a variety of prices I don’t see anything that would even come close to setting you back the whopping $160 that a month’s supply of Lovaza will.  My favorite brand for daily fish oil (Carlson Labs) offers a slightly higher dose of omega-3s than Lovaza for about $37 a month.

So let’s ask the question again: what, exactly, makes Lovaza so special?

Well, the Lovaza website likes to point out all sorts of ways.  A high concentration of omega-3s.  Rigorous quality control.  A label specifying how many pills to take.  Still, this doesn’t say much.  While it’s true that there are supplements that fall short of these standards, ours don’t.  It’s also true that most supplements exceed the “standards” that Lovaza claims make it special.

Once again, we need to ask the question: what, precisely, makes Lovaza different from the other fish oil-derived omega-3s out there?  In the end, the only distinction it can claim is that it gets to be called “medication,” while all the other omega-3s out there are called mere “supplements.”

Maybe the question we should be asking is: what’s the difference between a medication and a supplement?

So, next month, that’s the topic: we’re going to look at the history of “dietary supplements” in the country, where the law stands now, and how it became illegal to say that one brand of fish oil will lower your triglycerides, while another one can not.  (Am I the only one that finds these things fascinating?)

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