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Lovaza, also known as omega-3-acid ethyl esters, is a prescription form of fish oil that's highly concentrated. Each 1-gram capsule contains 465 mg eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and 375 mg docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). As a result, it provides the optimal dose for treating high triglycerides and requires fewer pills than with supplements available over the counter.

As a prescription medication, Lovaza underwent rigorous testing and clinical study to demonstrate its safety and efficacy before being approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). (This is not the case with omega-3 supplements found at the health food store.) In addition, GlaxoSmithKline must undergo periodic FDA inspections, provide independent lab testing for contaminants, and perform routine testing to confirm the purity and consistency of Lovaza. (Supplement companies are subjected to these FDA guidelines, as well.) This means each Lovaza pill contains the same amount of EPA and DHA, and that contaminants are at undetectable levels.

Besides being shown effective at reducing high triglycerides and improving outcomes in cardiovascular disease, Lovaza has been studied in combination with other medications. Multiple studies indicate that when combined with a group of cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins, Lovaza lowers triglyceride levels even further and can be used safely without any interactions. This is especially important since statins are some of the most commonly used medications for patients with cardiovascular disease and high triglycerides. Adding Lovaza to a statin also means you can use less of the statin medication, which may reduce some side effects. Lovaza could also be an alternative to other medications known to lower triglycerides, such as niacin and fibrates [like Lopid (gemfibrozil)], that can have intolerable side effects.

Lovaza can cause side effects similar to those seen with fish oil, namely burping, a fishy aftertaste and nausea. As with the use of other omega-3s, patients with bleeding disorders or liver disease or who are on blood thinners -- such as Coumadin (warfarin), Plavix (clopidogrel), Lovenox (enoxaparin) or aspirin -- should use caution when taking Lovaza as it may further prevent clotting. Lovaza can also potentially raise low-density lipoprotein (LDL "bad") cholesterol, so cholesterol levels should be monitored.

As a prescription medication, Lovaza may be covered by health insurance, although some insurance companies leave it off their lists of preferred medications because omega-3 fatty acids are also available over the counter. If your insurance company doesn't cover Lovaza, speak to your doctor about contacting your insurance company or offering an alternative.

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