We’ve always been told fish oil is good for us. A new study not only proves this at an individual level, but also demonstrates how preventive use of fish oil can save over $4 billion from disease burden on the economy.
Organisations such as the National Health and Medical Research Council, the National Heart Foundation of Australia and the World Health Organisation all endorse the cardiovascular benefits of fish oil. Now the latest research undertaken by Deloitte Access Economics identifies savings of approximately $4.2 billion through avoidance of disease burden and premature life loss, as a result of the preventive use of fish oils in patients with heart disease.
“The report highlights that just a low dosage of fish oils every day can improve mortality rates associated with heart disease. This research is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the positive outcomes of research into preventive interventions using complementary medicines,” says Dr Wendy Morrow, executive director of the Complementary Healthcare Council of Australia.
The Australian Self-Medication Industry (ASMI), the industry body representing non-prescription consumer healthcare products, also advocates an expanded role for fish oil supplements for patients with coronary heart disease.
“Fish oil is backed with strong scientific evidence to support its effectiveness and claims around cardiovascular benefits,” says ASMI’s executive director, Dr Deon Schoombie. “This new study now compares the cost of the therapy versus the benefit to the individual and broader community. The results are compelling.”
Call for fish oil in preventive health model
Despite the significant potential savings, fish oil supplements are currently not subsidised by the PBS and are also subject to a GST levy. The impact of the findings on government health policy is substantial.
“The government is working towards delivering preventive health outcomes and this research plays an enormous role in achieving this. Not only facilitating savings of up to $4.19 billion, implementing recommendations from the report and conducting further research of this nature could enable Australians to live healthier, more productive lives. And we want to assist the government in achieving this,” says Dr Morrow.
The analysis supports the wider use of fish oil supplements as a cost-effective way of providing secondary prevention in patients with cardiovascular disease.
“With positive cost-benefit outcomes such as these, it merits serious consideration by government into ways of more formally integrating complementary medicines into the broader preventative health agenda,” says Dr Schoombie. “Specifically, it should be looking at ways to expand the uptake and usage of such therapies proven to have a positive impact on some of the nation’s big killers, such as cardiovascular disease, which now affects almost one in five Australians.”
The Deloitte Access Economics report
The independent report from Deloitte Access Economics analyses the cost benefits to society of fish oil use in the prevention of heart disease. Evidence of the benefits of fish oil as an intervention was based on the findings of two large clinical trials. The cost benefits were measured in terms of disease burden on the economy, expressed as the cost of the number of years lost due to ill health, disability or death.