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NICE urges mass use of omega-3

GPs have been advised to prescribe omega-3 oils to thousands of patients who have had a heart attack as part of preventive measures that could cost the NHS hundreds of millions of pounds.

NICE recommends GPs advise patients on lifestyle and dietary changes after a myocardial infarction, but to consider prescribing at least 1g daily of omega-3 to all patients who cannot tolerate oily fish.

The supplement would be prescribed for a period of up to four years within three months of an MI.

NICE chief executive Andrew Dillon admitted 'the cost for year one will be around £700m, based on the assumption that one patient in five will not be able to tolerate it [as food]'.

Professor Gene Feder, chair of the guideline development group, said: 'Omega-3 oils have never been mooted in guidelines like they have been here.'

Professor Feder, who is a GP in Hackney, east London, and professor of primary care at Queen Mary University, said the guidelines were designed to 'raise the profile of secondary interventions and put them on a level footing with drug treatment'.

The guidance on secondary prevention of myocardial infarction advises patients to eat a Mediterranean-style diet, including two to four portions of oily fish a week for those who can tolerate it.

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