Yet another patient came to my office today saying, “My primary doctor said that I should stop taking fish oil. He say’s that I don’t need it because I take Crestor.”
The woman was in tears, confused and frightened over a potential disagreement between her doctors.
Is this true? If someone takes a statin drug, like Crestor, Lipitor, Zocor (simvastatin), pravachol, or lovastatin, they don’t need to take anything else because the statin drug is so powerful that it eliminates risk?
No. Not even close to the truth.
First of all, let’s accept that virtually the entire body of statin drug literature–hundreds of studies, billions of dollars spent–was paid for by the drug industry. It’s no news that studies paid for by the sponsor are likely to favor the sponsor. Imagine Ford sponsored a study of Ford vs. GM cars vs. Toyota, paying $10 million to fund the effort. Guess who is likely to come out on top? “Studies show that Ford makes the best car in America.” (Sorry, I don’t mean to pick specifically on Ford. It’s just a widely-recognized brand.)
So that means that the statin literature likely overestimates the benefit of statin drugs. Even so, it’s clear from the hundreds of studies performed that the best we can hope for by taking statin drugs is a reduction of heart attack and death from heart attack of 30-35%–best case. That doesn’t sound like elimination of risk to me.
What are the incremental benefits of adding omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil added to statins? The best data originate with the JELIS Trial (Effects of eicosapentaenoic acid on major coronary events in hypercholesterolaemic patients (JELIS): a randomised open-label, blinded endpoint analysis), in which 19,000 Japanese participants (who already have a high omega-3 intake from diet, usually ranging from 1800-3000 mg per day) experienced a 19% reduction (relative reduction) in cardiovascular events.
GISSI Prevenzione demonstrated a 28% reduction in heart attack, 45% reduction in death from heart attack with fish oil.
Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil also:
–Reduce triglycerides dramatically
–Accelerate after-eating clearance of digestive by-products, i.e., they correct post-prandial abnormalities
–Modify the character (fragmentation potential, structural strength) of plaque
–Raise HDL modestly
If you buy your fish oil from Sam’s Club, Costco, or other discounter, a healthy dose of fish oil might cost you $3 per month. Compare that to the $120 per month average cost of a statin agent. Why is there even a discussion over this?
Sadly, the doctor on Main Street, U.S.A, is the unwitting puppet of the pharmaceutical industry. The pretty drug company representative with nice legs and a cute smile promises lunch, dinner and . . who knows what else? Wink. The fifty-something, hairline-receding doctor can’t resist. “Of course I’ll prescribe your drug!”
Don’t kid yourself: The drug industry knows precisely how to manipulate the behaviors of the deliverers of their products.
So, do statin drugs make omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil irrelevant? Absolutely not.
It’s all about trying to inch closer and closer–not to reduction–but to elimination of risk for heart disease.
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