A Classic Double Standard When It Comes to Nutritional Supplements
Hi, this is Dr. Ronald Hoffman with what I think serves as a classic case study in double standard, and it has to do with fish oil. Now we’ve long suspected that fish oil could be beneficial for the heart. In studies of the Inuit, the Eskimos of Canada and Alaska, it serves a protective factor against cardiovascular disease. It’s virtually unknown in those populations that consume lots of oily fish and blubber rich in omega-3. Fast-forward to research that shows that fish oil lowers triglycerides, it keeps platelets from sticking together, it has an anti-inflammatory effect on the arterial walls, and it may also have an anti-arrhythmic effect reducing the chances of atrial fibrillation or ventricular tachycardia. And more and more studies supported the use of fish oil until recently when there’s a big turn around, and all of a sudden we saw press reports that, oh, don’t bother to take fish oil as the studies aren’t panning out. And we saw this rather strident op-ed in Journal of the American Medical Association you can see here, “Another Nail in the Coffin of Fish Oil Supplements.” Well that’s a pretty strident headline for a respectable Medical Journal. They’re going a little over the top there, don’t you think? They probably wouldn’t write a headline “Another Nail In the Coffin of Statin Drugs” because some studies suggest that statin drugs don’t work in individuals over 75. In fact very little beneficial effect, and maybe an increase in the risk of dying. But no, fish oil’s the target. They say the findings are just the latest to cast doubt on the usefulness of fish oil supplementation for cardiovascular disease. So I guess that means the JAMA won’t be accepting advertisements for a pharmaceutical drug released by Amerin Pharmaceuticals, the makers of Vascepa, which is a pharmaceutical version of fish oil — a thousand milligrams of EPA that recently in a study was shown to reduce cardiovascular disease risk by twenty five percent. So how do you reconcile those findings when fish oil is a supplement now another nail in the coffin, but when it’s a pharmaceutical drug released by Amarin, oh by the way, on the day of the release of this study data the stock went up 300%. So I think we’re in the midst of a little bit of a paradox here when fish oil as a nutritional supplement is panned whereas fish oil as a drug is promoted. And oh, by the way, what will be the cost of Vascepa for 120 count bottle? You need four capsules per day so that’s a month’s supply on average that retails for about three hundred eleven dollars. Now you probably get some reimbursement from your insurance company but be sure that you’re gonna have a hefty copay. As a consumer. By comparison, a hundred twenty count bottle of fish oil by Carlson, I believe that brand is Elite EPA, a thousand milligrams, the very same amount of EPA that proves so beneficial in the studies, that’ll set you back $68 a month. Three hundred and eleven dollars versus sixty eight dollars. But, of course, since it’s a pharmaceutical drug it’s gonna be embraced by Medicare, the insurance companies, and we’re off to the races. So here we have a classic double standard when it applies to nutritional supplements. I’m Dr. Ronald Hoffman and this is Intelligent Medicine.