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Should your eye doctor sell supplements?

Posted by: John Ewoldt under Pharmacies Updated: January 21, 2010 - 9:40 AM

After a recent eye exam, my optometrist sent me away with a bottle of EyePromise. The 60 softgels cost me about $30.  They contain 250 mg of fish oil, 8 mg of Zeaxanthin and 4 mg of Lutein. This is after my doctor had done a macular degeneration test that showed I have a slightly low amount of macular pigment (more pigment is better). And my 85 year old father has M.D., although it is being treated successfully and he is allowed to drive.

There's something fishy about this, besides the fish oil, in my opinion. If a doctor wants to suggest that this product may help, show me the research and tell me that I can buy it in places besides your office. I later discovered that a similar formula with Lutein, Zeaxanthin and fish oil is available at Sam's Club for half the cost. I suspect it's available at any retailer that sells a lot of supplements and vitamins. 

I checked with Dr. Steven Bennett, a retinal surgeon with VitreoRetinal Surgery P.A in the Twin Cities (www.retinaphysicians.com). He wrote in an email that studies have shown the supplements to be helpful only in people with early signs of macular degeneration. The presence of drusen (tiny white or yellow deposits that can form usually after age 60) in the eyes is a sign of degeneration. I wasn't tested for drusen at my appointment. 

Dr. Bennett wrote that a large study is underway regarding the Lutein, fish oil and Zeaxanthin supplements. Until more is known the current preventative recommendations are to avoid smoking, maintain a heart-healthy diet rich in fruits and dark leafy veggies, reduce fat intake, avoid abdominal obesity, exercise, treat blood pressure, and wear sunglasses when appropriate. The list goes on to say that Omega-3 fish oil and a daily multivitaim with lutein may be helpful.

It's a good law that doctors can't sell prescriptions to their patients. That ought to be expanded to supplements so that consumers aren't being overcharged or sold a questionable remedy.

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