Newly-released Frost and Sullivan Report on Health Care Cost Savings with Supplemental Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Shanahan, C. and de Lorimer, R., Frost and Sullivan, 2017, San Antonio, Texas, USA
The objective of the present report was to assess the potential savings in health care costs per year in the United States that could result from the use of evidence-based dietary supplements to reduce the occurrence of disease-related events. Various nutrient interventions and wide-ranging disease conditions were studied including EPA/DHA omega-3 fatty acids in relation to coronary heart disease.
For the specific focus of omega-3 fatty acids and coronary heart disease (CHD), the report determined the target population with CHD in 2012, the estimated number in the target population to experience a CHD event requiring hospitalization, the cost for such hospitalization, the cost for EPA/DHA supplementation at preventive daily intake levels, the number of events avoided if all in the target population took an omega-3 supplement, and the avoided hospital utilization costs. The report authors determined that the full utilization of EPA/DHA supplements at preventive intake levels among the target population could avoid hospital utilization costs in the order of $2.06 billion USD/year and cumulative savings of $16.46 billion USD from 2013 to 2020. The potential net savings in avoided CHD-related hospital utilization costs after subtracting omega-3 supplement costs at preventive daily levels was estimated to average $484.6 million USD/year and more than $3.38 billion USD in cumulative health care cost savings from 2013 to 2020.
Dr. Holub's Comments:
This report indicates the potential for the considerable savings in health care costs with the regular use of daily EPA/DHA omega-3 supplementation in reducing hospitalization costs in the ‘target population’ with CHD. However, it is most likely that the total potential savings with EPA/DHA supplementation are much greater than the estimates in this Frost and Sullivan report.
However, the report failed to include the substantial health care cost savings that can be delivered by utilizing EPA/DHA supplementation as a complementary strategy for favourably modifying various risk factors for CHD. For example, EPA/DHA supplements are known to offer less expensive yet effective options for blood triglyceride-lowering in those without or with CHD when compared to prescription medication with fibrates. Even moderately-elevated triglyceride levels, which are very prevalent in the population, represent a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Risk factors such as blood pressure, resting heart rate, inflammatory factors, plus others can also be favourably modified with appropriate levels of EPA/DHA supplementation in both those not yet on or on prescription drug treatment.
While the Frost and Sullivan report addressed the benefits of other (non-EPA/DHA omega-3) nutritional supplements for preventing and/or managing various non-cardio conditions, it failed to address the many other opportunities for health care cost savings via omega-3 supplementation in such applications. For example, there are published studies on the substantial financial savings in health care if routine DHA omega-3 supplementation were provided for during pregnancy for reducing preterm births, infant days in intensive care units, and shortening hospital stays. Health benefits to infants (cognitive, visual) and throughout the lifespan in relation to mental health and cognitive retention amongst the elderly are extensively reported for EPA and/or DHA supplementation in the peer-reviewed medical literature. Other benefits and health care cost savings via EPA/DHA supplementation for the prevention and/or complementary management of chronic conditions such as dry eye syndrome, inflammatory conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, or reducing the risk of certain cancers or slowing their progression need to be included in future economic analyses. Of course, maintaining the availability of EPA/DHA supplements to the public independent of a costly prescription status is critical to maximizing the benefit:cost ratio.