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Fish oil Cost Effective for the Secondary Prevention of Heart Disease

24 March 2012

Approximately 310,000 Australians suffer from chronic heart disease and is the second largest disease burden to Australian economy.  The total direct healthcare cost attributed to cardiovascular disease is AUD$5.9 billion each year in Australia.  A latest health economic analysis by Deloitte Access Economics showed that fish oil supplementation is a cost-effective intervention to prevent future cardiovascular mortality and morbidity in Australia.

Fish oil supplements offer a number of advantages through lowering potential risk profiles. The World Health Organization (WHO), American Heart Association, National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC), and the National Heart Foundation of Australia recommend fish oil as a complementary treatment in addition to standard treatments following a Myocardial Infarction (MI), commonly known as heart attack. MI typically occurs when the blood supply to parts of the heart is cut off by a blocked artery, causing damage to the heart tissue, and the cells in the affected area to start to die. In the days and weeks following a cardiac incident, this area may grow, eventually leaving a large part of the heart unable to function properly and increasing the risk of further heart problems.

Epidemiological studies have shown that the consumption of fatty fish is associated with lower incidence rates of coronary heart disease (CHD), stroke and MI.  The Complementary Healthcare Council of Australia (CHC) recently commissioned Deloitte Access Economics to undertake cost benefit analysis (CBA) of fish oils and estimate the net benefit of fish oils as adjunctive treatment for prevention of heart disease among those who have experienced MI, versus no fish oils, taking into account the cost per person of the treatment and the DALYs (Disability-Adjusted Life Years) avoided. DALY is a measure of overall disease burden adopted by WHO.

The analysis by Deloitte Access Economics is based on fish oil supplementation with dosage of 510-540mg EPA/day and 345-360mg DHA/day.  The result showed an ICER (incremental cost-effectiveness ratio) of $2,041 per DALY averted, indicating that fish oils are cost effective in the secondary prevention of CHD relative to the WHO benchmark.  The maximum value of the DALY benefits from the fish oil intervention was estimated at up to $3.4 billion.

This latest report offers further evidence that fish oil supplementation not only is effective in the reduction of incidence rates for cardiovascular disease, but also offers a genuine opportunity to reduce disease burden in a cost effective manner.

CHC Report on Fish oils for the secondary prevention of Coronary Heart Disease, 17 Feb 2012


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