“On July 26 the FDA approved a patented synthetic version of the Omega 3 fatty acid EPA, (Vascepa, by Amarin) for the treatment of hypertriglyceridemia. It should now become the market’s second omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) preparation available only by prescription. Vascepa is a purified marine-oil preparation of consisting of “not less than 96%” EPA, Amarin notes in its literature. It doesn’t contain significant amounts of the other active omega-3 PUFA, DHA, that is a major component of nonprescription fish-oil capsules and Lovaza (GlaxoSmithKline), which the FDA approved years ago.” (Medscape)
Why is this a triumph? For years Big Pharma has watched enviously as nutritional science has focused more on disease prevention rather than symptom suppression. Big pharma has poured millions into research in an attempt to capture part of the lucrative nutrition market, first with Lovanza, then with “Medical Foods” and now Vascept, marking a big payoff for the financial support paid to the FDA (a well known, well documented system).
Omega 3 fatty acid supplementation has been shown to have a host of health benefits. Significant research supports Omega 3s for depression, menopause symptoms, personality disorder, psoriasis, atherosclerosis, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, macular degeneration and risk of pneumonia and other infections. Preliminary research also shows benefit for ADHD, schizophrenia and risk of Alzheimer’s.
DHA can reduce triglyceride levels by 20% in men with hyperlipidemia. DHA does not seem to significantly decrease total cholesterol or increase total high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol; however, DHA seems to increase HDL-2 cholesterol. DHA might also increase low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol by 8%.(Am J Clin Nutr. 2000 May;71(5):1085-94).
Pure EPA reduces serum triglyceride concentrations, increases fasting insulin and glucose concentrations, but has no effect on total and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol in mildly hypercholesterolemic men (6143,10322). EPA can increase HDL cholesterol by approximately 12%. “High proportions of n-3 fatty acids in serum lipids are associated with a substantially reduced risk of death.” (Am J Clin Nutr. 2002 Nov;76(5):1007-15; Am J Clin Nutr. 2003 Jul;78(1):65-71.)
Nutritionists point out that grass-fed beef has a natural balance of Omega 3, 6 and 9 which matches the human body. When cattle are fed corn in feed lots this balance shifts strongly toward Omega 6 and 9, resulting in the adverse health effects found in factory raised beef.
According to Amarin, “Vascepa may not elevate low-density-lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C), an undesirable effect long observed with the more familiar EPA/DHA omega-3 capsules, including Lovaza.” An interesting statement. According to a study published in Diabetes Care, “Supplementation with purified DHA increases LDL particle size, reduces serum triglycerides, and increases HDL2 cholesterol, as well as improves vascular function and blood pressure. DHA may have more therapeutic value than EPA as a food additive, but longer-term prospective studies are needed to address this issue.” (Diabetes Care January 2003 vol. 26 no. 1 253).
Lovanza, GlaxoSmithKline’s prescription fish oil, has been approved and marketed for prevention of heart disease. By adding ethyl esters to the Omega 3s, absorption of EPA is increased, and DHA decreased, about 10%. This is an insignificant difference in optimal dose, which remains at 4 grams for Lovanza per day, or 4 grams of over the counter fish oil.
So why Vascepa, and for that matter why Lovanza, the prescription form synthetic and modified Omega 3s? Lovanza serves to illustrate why Amalin and GlaxoSmithKline have suddenly found benefit in what nutritionists, whole food researchers and other misfits have been long promoting, the need for mom’s cod liver oil (which is very high in Omega 3s!). Profit. A month’s worth of Lovanza costs about $135.00, plus the doctor’s visit for the prescription. Your insurance will cover much of the cost (making insurance that much more costly) and leave you with only a small co-pay, about $15 for most plans. Over the counter fish oil costs as little as $10.00 per month. Any differences in effect are insignificant.