How Much Should Fish Oil Cost?
Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil are an important component of any heart disease prevention program: reduced triglycerides, correction of several causes of heart disease, and dramatic reduction of heart attack.
How much should we pay for these extraordinary benefits? Should we pay $2 a month, $5 a month, $10 . . . $280?
I suppose that it's difficult to put a price on health. But what if there's a choice? What if we have the ability to choose from the entire spectrum of cost?
Lovaza® is drug manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline's prescription fish oil, an ethyl ester modification that permits a greater concentration of omega-3 fatty acids, EPA + DHA, per capsule. Each capsule of Lovaza® contains 840 mg EPA + DHA.
Lovaza® is FDA-approved for treatment of high triglycerides (>500 mg/dl). In their marketing, they claim that, "unlike Lovaza, dietary supplements are not FDA approved to treat any disease." They also highlight the "patented five-step" purification process that eliminates any concerns over mercury or pesticide residues.
What does Lovaza® cost? In several pharmacies in my area, Lovaza® costs about $70 per capsule per month (PCPM). Most people are taking four capsules per day: $280 per month, or $3360 per year to obtain 3360 mg of EPA + DHA per day.
That's $3360 per year, just for one person to take Lovaza®.
What if I instead went to Costco and bought their high-potency fish oil. This is also an ethyl ester form. It costs $14.99 for 180 capsules, or $2.50 PCPM; each capsule contains 684 mg EPA + DHA. I would therefore have to take five capsules per day to obtain the same 3360 mg EPA + DHA per day. This would cost me 5 x $2.50 = $12.50 per month, or $150 per year.
$3360 per year vs. $150 per year to obtain the same dose of omega-3 fatty acids, a 22.4-fold (2240%) difference.
This would be the same magnitude of difference if, for example, you were to pay $5 per pound for salmon at one grocery, $112 per pound at another. Is there really a 22.4-fold difference?
Although Lovaza® is FDA-approved for reducing high triglycerides, I am seeing more and more people take it for other reasons at this four-capsule-per-day dose. Regardless, this "drug" is adding $3360 per year costs to our healthcare. A schoolteacher, for instance, recently commented to me that she didn't care about the costs, since her insurance covers Lovaza®. I've heard this same comment from other people: insurance covers it, so they don't care how much it costs.
Guess who eventually has to pay the $3360 per year per person costs? That's right: you and me. We all complain about the cost of healthcare and health insurance, but many of us are more than willing to shift the cost to our friends and neighbors to save a few bucks.
Keep in mind that $3360 per year is just for fish oil. It's not for surgery, it's not for hospital care, it's just for fish oil.