Many people take fish oil supplements because they contain omega-3 fatty acids, which can help protect against cardiovascular disease. You can buy over-the-counter fish oil supplements, but if you have very high triglycerides, a type of lipid, your doctor might prescribe fish oil containing a higher dose of omega-3 fatty acids. Manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline, Lovaza is a precription-only purified form of fish oil.
Fish oil capsules, including Lovaza, contain the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentenoic acid, known as EPA, and docosahexenoic, known as DHA. These substances prevent blood platelets from clumping together, lower the risk of abnormal heart rhythms, decrease triglyceride levels, slow the growth rate of plaque in the arteries, and may decrease inflammation in blood vessels, as noted by UC Berkeley and the American Heart Association (AHA). Lowering these risks decreases your chance of developing heart disease.
Omega-3 fatty acids are beneficial for healthy people as well as for those who have or are at high risk for cardiovascular disease, according to the AHA. If you're not at risk for heart disease, you can generally can obtain enough of these substances by eating fish, but not everyone likes fish. People who have coronary artery disease or high triglycerides, and people with autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis, all may benefit from a higher dose of omega-3 fatty acids than they consume in their diet.
Lovaza contains omega-3 acid ethyl esters, a concentrated version of Omega-3 fatty acids and falls under the drug classification of anti-lipemic. An anti-lipemic decreases liver production of triglycerides along with other fats produced in the liver. The medication is intended as part of a lifestyle program, including a low-cholesterol and low-fat diet, exercise and proper weight management.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved Lovaza for the treatment of high triglycerides, according to the Lovaza official website. In contrast, the FDA does not approve over-the-counter supplements. Manufacturing standards for FDA-approved products may be higher because of more stringent regulation. In addition, Lovaza contains 465 mg of EPA and 375 mg of DHA per capsule, higher than most over-the-counter fish oil capsules. eMedTV notes that cheaper fish oil supplements almost always contain low amounts of EPA and DHA, even if the label lists high concentrations. Talk with your doctor about which product is right for you.
Whether you choose Lovaza or a non-prescription product, if you take more than three grams per day of Omega-3 fatty acids from capsules, you should do so only with a doctor's supervision, advises the AHA. High intakes can lead to excessive bleeding, including internal bleeding, in some patients. Large doses of fish oil also are associated with side effects of heartburn, burping, nausea, diarrhea, rash and problems with blood sugar regulation in people with diabetes.