Fish oil (omega-3 fatty acids) used after heart attacks in Europe–why not in the US?

Here’s an excerpt from a 2006 New York Times article, which points out some of the resistance to supplements that is a feature of US medicine–in this case, rather clearly to the detriment of American cardiac patients.

Note: the American Heart Association’s recently updated guidelines on fish oil / omega-3’s are posted on this blog under “Omega-3” – Oct. 23, 2007.

In Europe It’s Fish Oil After Heart Attacks, but Not in U.S.


ROME — Every patient in the cardiac care unit at the San Filippo Neri Hospital who survives a heart attack goes home with a prescription for purified fish oil, or omega-3 fatty acids.

“It is clearly recommended in international guidelines,” said Dr. Massimo Santini, the hospital’s chief of cardiology, who added that it would be considered tantamount to malpractice in Italy to omit the drug.

In a large number of studies, prescription fish oil has been shown to improve survival after heart attacks and to reduce fatal heart rhythms. The American College of Cardiology recently strengthened its position on the medical benefit of fish oil, although some critics say that studies have not defined the magnitude of the effect.

But in the United States, heart attack victims are not generally given omega-3 fatty acids, even as they are routinely offered more expensive and invasive treatments, like pills to lower cholesterol or implantable defibrillators. […]

“Most cardiologists here are not giving omega-3’s even though the data supports it — there’s a real disconnect,” said Dr. Terry Jacobson, a preventive cardiologist at Emory University in Atlanta. “They have been very slow to incorporate the therapy.”


Note: Full article appeared in NYT Oct. 3, 2006 and was accessed from the online edition by us on Nov. 11, 2007.


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