Lovaza: A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing?

Nutrition Business Journal takes a close look at Lovaza, a prescription-only omega-3 fatty acid manufactured by Pronova Biopharma in Norway and marketed in the United States by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), in our upcoming issue on the state of the nutrition industry. According to market research firm IMS Health, global sales of Lovaza topped $1 billion in 2009, with $758 million of those sales originating in the U.S.

The new fuss over Lovaza is more about marketing than innovation, as the drug received approval from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) back in 2004, one year before Reliant Pharmaceuticals brought its predecessor, Omacor, to market. Supplement manufacturers are wary of the heavy ad campaign behind a pharmaceutical competing with one of industry’s star performers, but many view the exposure as a win-win.

“Overall, I think it’s very positive,” said Monique Wellise, professional sales manager for Nordic Naturals. “It validates the use of omega 3s in a clinical application.” Kyle Bliffert, president of Pure Encapsulations, agreed. “If GSK wants to spend millions of dollars advertising the health benefits of fish oil on TV, it can do nothing but benefit all of us. I’m in.”

NBJ Bottom Line

The news is not all rosy, however. If patients continue to bite for Lovaza in a big way, this could draw economic attention from big pharma toward OTC supplements already available to an educated consumer. The weight of a doctor’s opinion, and that’s doctor’s faith in a more heavily regulated and tested pharmaceutical, could spell trouble for supplements that reach blockbuster status. Already, pharmaceutical companies have rolled out prescription versions of Niacin (Niaspan has been around since 1997), and vitamin D2 (which many contend is actually inferior to over-the-counter D3). Future candidates for supplement-based drugs might include: plant sterols, coenzyme Q10, and glucosamine/chondroitin.

For the full story behind Lovaza, and comprehensive coverage of the current supplement industry, don’t miss NBJ’s 2010 Nutrition Industry Overview issue, available later this month through our website.

Related NBJ links:

Global Supplement & Nutrition Industry Report 2010

2010 Archived Global Nutrition Industry Overview Web Seminar

Fish Oil-Derived Omega-3s Meet Chinese Approval for Use in Food

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