NEW YORK, NY. In a recent article in the New York Times, attention was drawn to the anomaly that in Europe fish oils are prescribed as part of the treatment protocol after an individual has had a heart attack, but this practice is much rarer in the U.S. What is the reason for why American physicians do not regularly prescribe fish oil after heart attack? Are they fully aware of the benefits of fish oil?
The article quotes the chief of cardiology at an Italian hospital as stating that not only is this use of fish oil recommended in international guidelines, but it would be considered tantamount to malpractice to omit giving this “drug.” In fact, there is even available a prescription formulation of purified fish oil called Omacor, but it is not approved by the FDA for use in the U.S. except for very high triglyceride levels and cannot be promoted except for this single indication.
Related to this subject is a paper in the Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine which reported on a survey taken among family physicians in the State of Washington to determine the frequency with which they prescribed fish oil supplements for secondary prevention after a heart attack. While 57% were aware of fish oil’s effectiveness, only 17% actually prescribed it. Only 26.5% of family physicians were even aware of one of the most dramatic effects of fish oil, reducing the risk of sudden cardiac death. This study did not include cardiologists.
Rosenthal, E. In Europe It’s Fish Oil after Heart Attacks, but Not in U.S. New York Times, October 3, 2006
Oh, R. C. et al. The Fish in Secondary Prevention of Heart Disease (FISH) Survey—Primary Care Physicians and Omega-3 Fatty Acid Prescribing Practice. Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine, 2006, Vol 19, No. 5, pp.459-66