Consumer’s Guide to Prescription Fish Oil

prescription fish oil soft gels beside stethoscope and EKG heart tracing

If you’re buying fish oils, you may be wondering if prescription fish oil is better than a regular fish oil?

Research shows that prescription omega 3 fatty acids are superior to dietary fish oils for effectively reducing elevated triglyceride levels.

Fish oils are an excellent source of the omega 3 fatty acids, eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

These natural health products are readily available online and at local retailers. While very popular and effective for many health-conscious consumers, dietary supplements are not made by the same standards as pharmaceutical products.

A prescription fish oil (also known as a Prescription Omega 3 Fatty Acid) is an omega 3 supplement that’s been approved by the FDA and requires a prescription from your doctor.

Numerous studies indicate that prescription fish oils play a valuable role in the medical management of high triglycerides.

Difference Between Prescription Fish Oil and Regular Fish Oil

Traditional over-the-counter fish oils provide EPA and DHA in the triglyceride form.

When the oil is processed into the pharmaceutical form, the EPA and DHA are converted into highly-concentrated ethyl esters. This manufacturing process is called molecular distillation and it provides extremely high purity levels that meet criteria set out by the FDA.

While both fish oils and prescription fish oils are absorbed at the same rate, researchers at Jefferson Medical College, Philadelphia found ethyl ester EPA was more effective than fish oil for lowering triglycerides and reducing the formation of blood clots.

At press time, there are four (4) prescription fish oils:

  1. Lovaza – contains omega-3-acid ethyl esters
  2. Vascepa – made of icosapent ethyl
  3. Omtryg – omega-3-acid ethyl esters (approved by FDA but not available yet)
  4. Epanova – contains omega-3-carboxylic acids (approved by FDA but not available yet)

A comparison of all 4 products, published in the Pharmacy and Therapeutics Review, concluded that they were all well-tolerated and can substantially reduce high triglyceride levels.

How Much Does Prescription Fish Oil Cost?

three Lovaza prescription fish oil soft gels

Lovaza Soft Gels

At press time, only Lovaza and Vascept are currently available from pharmacies.  Omtryg and Epanova have received FDA approval but are not yet available.

A price check for Lovaza 1000 mg. on shows prices ranging from 0.99 to $1.89 per soft gel.

At the recommended dosage of 2 – 4 soft gels daily this adds up to about $1.98 – 7.56 per day, or $59.40 – $228.00 per month.

Lovaza is also sold in other countries under the name Omacor and you may find lower prices outside the U.S.

The cost for Vascepa was higher at $2.42 to $2.49 per 1000 mg. soft gel.

Can You Substitute Dietary Fish Oil Supplements for Prescription Fish Oil?

A review published in the January 2016 edition of ManagedCare Journal looked at all available data on using prescription omega 3 fatty acids and fish oils for cardiovascular issues.

They also reviewed regulatory information on prescription and dietary supplements from the FDA and found:

  • all prescription fish oils and/or omega 3 products are made under strong clinical and safety monitoring programs, whereas dietary supplements are considered “foods” and assumed to be safe until proven otherwise.
  • Prescription products have statistically proven they significantly reduce triglycerides alone or with a statin drug; no fish oil supplement can prove this.
  • dietary supplements can contain a mixture of EPA, DHA, other fatty acids, lipids, cholesterol or other unwanted ingredients or toxins.

They concluded:

“OM3-FA (omega 3 fatty acid) dietary supplements should not be substituted for prescription products, and prescription OM3-FA products that contain DHA are not equivalent to or interchangeable with high-purity EPA (icosapent ethyl) and should not be substituted for it.”

Using a prescription fish oil under your Doctor’s supervision can effectively reduce high triglyceride levels and improve your cardiovascular health.

Please consult with your doctor before using any natural health product or dietary supplement.


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