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Call for fish oil supplements to be PBS listed for the prevention of preterm births

An Australian expert has recommended that Omega 3 fish oil supplements be listed on the PBS to help “the most vulnerable pregnant women access the right intervention” to prevent early preterm births.

Julie Quinlivan, from the Institute for Health Research, University of Notre Dame Australia,
Fremantle, and the School of Medicine, ANU, Canberra, says that implementation of omega 3 long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids supplements in pregnancy is now a feasible and cost-effective public health strategy, and one that is backed by substantial evidence.

“The omega-3 LCPUFA story is remarkable and involves multidisciplinary researchers from around the world,” she said.

“The discovery is a gold standard in progressing from benchtop to bedside in medical research”.

However, as Ms Quinlivan wrote in an editorial in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, there need to be safeguards to ensure women buy the most suitable omega-3 LCPUFA, at the right dose and at the correct time during the pregnancy.

In addition, there were concerns that women were using brands with “validated manufacturing controls to avoid unscrupulous traders”.

“One way to help ensure pregnant women do take the correct dose, type and purity of supplement may be to consider implementation of a PBS subsidised prescription for a 24 weeks supply of
500 mg of DHA taken once daily,” she said.

“This would help ensure our most vulnerable pregnant women can access the right intervention”.

A recent Cochrane Review, published in late 2018 found an 11% reduction in preterm birth and reduction in lowbirth weight babies following the implementation of prenatal supplementation with Omefa-3 LCPUFA.

“Obstetric care providers have been very supportive of previous public health nutritional supplementation strategies such as use of folic acid to prevent neural tube defects,” Ms Quinlivan argued.

“The cost-benefit ratio of omega-3 LCPUFA supplementation is even greater, and widespread adoption into clinical practice should now occur”.

Click here to access a CPD-accredited article on omega-3 supplementation

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