Posted on August 14, 2012 at 12:02 PM
HOUSTON—The popular supplement Omega-3 is saving the youngest of lives. Texas Children’s Hospital is using fish oil to feed sick preemies and babies.
Pierce Pack was born three and a half months early at Texas Children’s Hospital.
“He had pedia-ligation which is noninvasive heart surgery. He had intestine surgery,” explains Pierce’s mother, Lauren Pack. “Then he had his appendix removed and had a breathing tube for a very long time.”
He had to be fed fats intravenously, to mend his liver, but it wasn’t until he received the drug Omegaven did his health improve.
“These babies, we have to give them fats in order to make them grow,” said Dr. Steven Abrams, a neonatologist and nutrition researcher at Texas Children’s Hospital. “Omegaven is a fat that comes from fish oil, so it’s a very healthy kind of fat.”
Fish oils have been used mostly as a supplement, but not as a medication to treat diseases. It was introduced in the U.S. six years ago. Texas Children’s has used it for five years, even though it was not approved by the FDA. Texas Children’s is one of the few medical institutions with special permission from the FDA to administer Omegaven. Others must request it on a case-by-case basis and that could take weeks for approval.
“It’s still listed as an investigational drug,” Dr. Abrams explained. “In order to use it, you have to use it under compassionate protocol. That means you have to tell the FDA the need for it is so important that without it the baby might have a severe consequence or die.”