Home > Blog > Do you Need Prescription Fish Oil Pills?
Part 1

Do you Need Prescription Fish Oil Pills?
Part 1

by Vin Kutty, MS on May 15, 2010

There is a prescription fish oil pill.

It’s called Lovaza. You may have seen the TV commercial. Outside the US, this drug is called Omacor.

It is the first and only FDA-approved fish oil derived prescription drug.

Lovaza is used to treat high triglycerides.

Triglycerides are fats found in your body. Calories that are not burned immediately by the body is converted to triglycerides and stored in fat cells. In between meals, when your body needs energy, it uses triglycerides.

Everything you Need to Know About Prescription Fish Oil

Having too much triglyceride in the blood is bad. Like cholesterol, high triglycerides is linked to heart disease.

The dosage for Lovaza is four (4) pills per day.

Patients taking Lovaza noticed a 30 to 40% reduction in their blood triglyceride level. Clearly, it works!

Each Lovaza pill has about 850 to 900 mg of Omega-3 fatty acids. The EPA content is 465 mg and DHA content is 375 mg per pill.

In Europe and Asia, it is marketed for ‘secondary prevention of post-myocardial infraction’. (Translation: it keeps you from getting a second heart attack after you’ve just had one.)
Lovaza is marketed and distributed in the US by GlaxoSmithKline. The patents and formulas are owned by a Norwegian company called Pronova BioPharma.

Lovaza and Omacor together had sales of over $ 1 billion in 2009.

Pronova used to make fish oil for supplements until 2005. I’ve bought fish oil from them several times. That same fish oil and technology has been refined and is now sold by Pronova BioPharma as a drug.

Pronova and GlaxoSmithKline don’t make the actual Lovaza pills. The pills are made by Catalent, Banner and Accucaps.

All three companies also make fish oil supplements and were my vendors a few years ago. They produce the prescription pills in separate FDA drug-approved sections of their facilities.

Since Lovaza is the only Omega-3 drug, many scientists and researchers prefer using Lovaza in their clinical trials.

Why? Well, unlike supplements, drugs have to follow very specific rules. So every pill of Lovaza is just like the next. Pharmaceutical grade fish oil pills are just as good. But using the drug reduces variability – a very important thing in clinical trials. Still most Omega-3 clinical trials are done with pharmaceutical grade fish oil.

New clinical studies

There are 4 major studies (ORIGIN, ASCENT, GISSI and VITAL) with a total of 55,000 patients that are evaluating Lovaza Omega-3 and its effect on heart disease.

The most interesting one is VITAL, conducted by Harvard Medical School with 20,000 patients. They have included Vitamin D as well. The aim of the study is to see if Omega-3 and Vitamin D prevent heart disease and cancer over a period of 5 years.

I pity the patients on the placebo pills!

Part 2 of this series compares Lovaza versus fish oil supplements.


Prescription fish oil Author: Vin Kutty About the Author: Vin Kutty is OmegaVia’s Scientific Advisor and Chief Blogger. He is a nutritionist, author and Omega-3 expert with over 20 years of experience. He blogs here, there and occasionally, everywhere. When inspired, he shares his professorial wisdom on Facebook and Twitter. Email him.


Lovaza prescription fish oil

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{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

Mercedes Stelk May 15, 2010 at 10:51 am

Hello! I just read your blog and I enjoyed it. I was curious if you are planning to create more articles to go together with this blog?

Reply

Omegavia May 17, 2010 at 6:11 pm

Mercedes,

Of course! Look for Part 2 in the next day or two. And may be Part 3 if I feel really chatty.

Thanks for reading.
Vin

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alfredoe May 15, 2010 at 9:29 pm

Hi All. If you are going to start supplementing with fish oil, it is important to remember 2 things. First, you need a minimum dosage at a certain frequency in order to get the fish oil benefits. This dosage is 3.000 mg of fish oil per day(close to 900 mg of omega 3 fats, EPA plus DHA, from the label).

You also need to lower the ingestion of omega 6 fats (grains and grain oils) as you raise your omega 3 fats. Otherwise you won’t get the benefits of fish oil.

Read more at http://www.omega-3-fish-oil-wonders.com/fish-oil-benefits.html

Best wishes,
Alfredoe

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Jarred Marinese June 12, 2010 at 7:20 am

Great blog post.Really looking forward to read more.

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Fran October 31, 2012 at 2:33 pm

When I take fish oil capsules, I get oil clogged pores on my nose. Does this mean I am not metabolizing the fish oil?

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Vin Kutty October 31, 2012 at 8:53 pm

Hi Fran – it is possible that you are not metabolizing your brand of fish oil. I would suggest starting at a lower dosage and possibly trying other brands. I suggest paying attention to potency and purity. Also, make sure that you take it with the largest meal of the day.
– Vin Kutty

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Colleen November 4, 2012 at 4:25 am

Can fish oil contribute to increased hair loss?

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Vin Kutty November 12, 2012 at 8:32 pm

Hi Colleen – there is no evidence that fish oil by itself contributes to hair loss. More often than not, it is hormonal imbalance that causes hair loss.
– Vin Kutty

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Ravi January 8, 2013 at 6:24 pm

Hi Sir(Vin Kutty),

I am having an abnormal triglyceride level which is above 1900mg/dL. I have been hospitalized several times due to pancreatitis (due to high triglyceride level). I am under treatment for this now. I am under these medications :
lipitor 80mg, lovaza 4gm, creon , niaspan 1500mg and tricor 145mg.

and am also under low fat – low carb diet.

I need your suggestions to improve my health.

And from recent times, my insurance doesn’t cover for lovaza, so, i am looking for an alternative. Then i heard abour Omegavia. I am not sure whether i can replace lovaza with it.

Thank you.

Reply

Vin Kutty January 8, 2013 at 6:44 pm

Hi Ravi – sounds like you have familial hypertriglyceridemia. It’s common among south asians. And dangerous too. You need to work with your doctor and a licensed nutritionist personally to treat this. I won’t comment on your prescription med list, but you definitely need at least 4000 mg of Omega-3 per day. If not Lovaza, ANY equivalent supplement that is at least 85% Omega-3. More here: http://www.omegavia.com/favorite-fish-oil-brands-part-2/

One thing that sounds very iffy is that you mention low-fat and low-carb. This leaves protein. Not good. Protein should stay around 20-25% of your calories. You adjust carbs up/down or you adjust fats up/down. If your nutritionist or doctor asked you to go on a low-fat diet. I’d find a new nutritionist. Putting a person with familial hypertriglyceridemia on a low-fat diet is not smart, in my opinion. More here: http://www.omegavia.com/i-take-your-omega-3-but-my-triglycerides-still-went-up/ Please read the post on this link! You may also want to read ‘New Atkins For a New You’ and soon!
– Vin Kutty

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janna March 9, 2013 at 11:10 pm

Is spring valley fish oil a good substitute for louvza. My tryclersrides are normal, but my siblings have all had heart disease. My insurance will not pay for louvza. Each capsule of
Spring valley has 300 mg of omega 3 fatty acids. Tx.

Reply

Vin Kutty March 12, 2013 at 12:13 am

Hi Janna – no, Spring Valley fish oil is not a substitute for Lovaza. You need a capsule that has at least 1000 mg of Omega-3 per pill. I dont know if Walmart has one of those, but even if it comes close, you’ll be helped. The 300 mg of Omega-3 per pill is simply not enough because you need 3000 to 4000 mg of Omega-3 per day.

– Vin Kutty

Reply

KM April 15, 2013 at 4:28 am

Hi Vin,

My HDL is always low around 30 . My doctors suggested me to take 2 Lovaza per day but no change from last six month. I m taking Lovaza from last 6 years. As per your article I should be taking more ?

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KM April 15, 2013 at 4:37 am

Also I have high triglycerides but I am taking fenofibrate for high triglycerides.

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Vin Kutty April 15, 2013 at 2:40 pm

Hi KM – Lovaza is for lowering triglycerides, not increasing HDL. If you take more, your triglycerides will be lower. Increasing HDL requires exercise and increasing the fat content of your diet. Occasional 16-hour fasting and moderate alcohol consumption also increases HDL. But besides, exercise, do not attempt the others without consulting your doctor.

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KM April 15, 2013 at 11:44 pm

Thank you Vin

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trista May 28, 2013 at 11:02 pm

Due to high triglycerides, my husband has to have taken lovaza. After taking it for a year and having a second time blood test, his blood glucose has gone up to the pre-diabetes level. I don’t know but does this prescribed fish oil has such a side effect?

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Vin Kutty May 29, 2013 at 12:37 am

Hi Trista – some people taking Lovaza notice a very slight increase in fasting blood glucose, but it is not much. If blood glucose is up a lot, chances are it is diet related. Please talk to your doctor about what to do about this.

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Walter August 8, 2013 at 10:12 pm

Would it be bad for a healthy adult to take lovaza without a prescription? Will it do more harm than be beneficial?

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Vin Kutty August 9, 2013 at 12:12 am

Hi Walter – Lovaza is a prescription drug. You are not supposed to take prescription drugs without a prescription. Will it do more harm than good? No. Absolutely not.

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terestia rojas August 11, 2013 at 3:39 pm

hi !
I would appreciate if you could help with this question.
My mother is taking Cumadin 3 mgrs once a day for more than two years , she had DVT,
She can take Lovaza? Her doctor prescribed ,but the farmacist said she can not take it because she is on cumadin
thanks

Reply

Vin Kutty August 12, 2013 at 12:13 am

Hi Teresita – please check with her doctor – this is a medical question and I cannot give you medical advice.

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Irene January 28, 2014 at 6:57 pm

Hi,
My husband was told by his doctor to take Red Yeast Rice for his cholesterol because his LDL level is too high and HDL is low. I read online that CholesLo is much more effective. The question I have can Lovaza be taken along with CholesLo?

Thank you.
Irene E

Reply

Vin Kutty January 28, 2014 at 7:08 pm

Hi Irene – I am not a fan of either Red Yeast Rice or CholesLo.

More here:
http://www.omegavia.com/fish-oil-red-yeast-rice/
http://www.omegavia.com/cholesterol-when-to-panic/

But to answer your question, you would have to ask the folks selling CholesLo if it is OK to take with Lovaza. It is a complicated formula but the major ingredients are OK with Lovaza but they’re not clear on the minor ingredients. So it’s worth a call.

Hope this helps.

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Shelly April 26, 2014 at 2:18 am

My husband took red yeast rice and shrunk about 2 inches. Look into the side effects before you decide.

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Vin Kutty April 26, 2014 at 3:50 am

Hi Shelly – ‘shrunk’ as in height or waist size?! Please tell me it was his waist…

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Dan September 10, 2014 at 5:01 pm

Is there any difference between Fish Oil supplements and Krill Oil supplements? Any real value in phospholipids in Krill Oil?

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Vin Kutty, MS September 10, 2014 at 5:17 pm

Hi Dan – yes, there is a lot of difference between fish oil and krill oil supplements. Fish oils are Omega-3 supplements. Krill oils are phospholipid supplements with trace amounts of Omega-3. You can take both together, but you can’t easily take krill oil to replace fish oil as a source of Omega-3. The Omega-3 in krill oil is better absorbed, but like I said, there are only trace amounts of it. More here: http://www.omegavia.com/krill-oil-vs-fish-oil/ Is there value in phospholipids? Yes, if you are deficient in it or don’t eat eggs.

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Dan September 11, 2014 at 4:49 pm

Can I interpret what you are saying is that the krill oil may be beneficial but that I should still tak the fish oil too? I do have high triglyceride levels and am taking fenofibrate for that (though has not been fully resolved with using this med). I did not start fish oil supplements for the triglycerides, but rather for joint pain/nerve pain from multiple damaged discs in back and to help with “heart health” with several family members having suffered from heart disease. After a few years of using fish oil it was suggested to me to try the krill oil. I found after a few months the back and leg pain diminished significantly (I realize the pain diminishing may not be related to the oil supplement, but since they started around the se period I have continued using them).
Do you think, because of the triglyceride levels I should add fish oil back? And by how much?
You mentioned that the phospholipids would be beneficial if I was deficient. How would I determine that (test or symptoms)? btw we rarely eat eggs in our household, though I do like them. Would you think adding them back to diet would be better than continuing using krill oil?

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Vin Kutty, MS September 11, 2014 at 7:01 pm

Hi Dan – just so I am clear: take the fish oil for Omega-3. You will need between 3000 and 4000 mg of Omega-3 to reduce triglycerides.

Take the krill oil for phospholipids if you don’t eat a lot of eggs. Technically you can reduce triglycerides with krill oil too, but you will need at least a 12-15 pills a day. That makes it ridiculously expensive. I would add eggs back to your diet – it is one of the richest and most nutrient dense foods on the planet!

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Dianne October 8, 2014 at 9:10 pm

Is there any danger in taking pharmacy omega ?

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Vin Kutty, MS October 9, 2014 at 2:58 am

No.

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lisa December 3, 2014 at 6:59 pm

I’ve been taking lovaza for about a month but since I’ve been on it I’ve been having serious problems with diarrhea and upset/achey stomach. I’m on 4 grams a day. Any tips or ideas on what I should do? I’ve already tried my Dr.

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Vin Kutty, MS December 3, 2014 at 8:58 pm

Hi Lisa – since your doctor put you on Lovaza, only he/she can help you with this. Lovaza is a prescription medication and its use should be doctor moderated. You say you’ve discussed with your doctor but have not shared what he/she suggested. This side effect is somewhat uncommon, but it happens to some people. You may be reacting to digesting the high volume of oil. It is possible that the fish oil is old or somewhat rancid. You may need a lower dose initially before you ramp up to 4 per day. You may need a lipase enzyme supplement to help digest the oil. I don’t know – these are all guesses and options. But you need to discuss these with your doctor before you do anything. If you’re really miserable and your doctor does not care or help, it may be time for a new doctor.

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Thiru December 5, 2014 at 2:29 pm

I have triglycerides in the range of 250 – 400 and it varies .
HDL is only 40. Dr advised me to take omega -3 one a day. I have been taking for the last year. I I have reduced to 4 a week now, after hearing about some side effects.
Are there any side effects? How long can you take omega supplements continuously? Should we stop once TGL is ok?

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Vin Kutty, MS December 5, 2014 at 3:33 pm

Hi Thiru – I suggest you read more of the articles on this website. You need to take 3000 to 4000 mg of Omega-3 per day. One capsule only has about 300 mg or so. So your 4 times a week dosage is barely enough for a day. You will not notice any drop in triglycerides at your current dosage. At the dosage you are taking, you will notice neither benefits nor side effects. People may notice some stomach distress at 10 times your dosage. If you stop using Omega-3 and do not change your diet, your triglycerides will go back to where they originally were, in about 6 weeks. My suggestion to you is to completely eliminate all sugar and grains from your diet. Eat mostly vegetables and meats.

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