By Rachel Browne, Sydney Morning Herald

Giving fish oil supplements to patients with cardiovascular disease could save the economy up to $4.2 billion, an economic report from Deloitte Access Economics says.

Researchers analysed the cost benefit of using fish oil supplements taking into account the cost to the economy of the number of years lost due to ill health, disability or death.

The Complementary Healthcare Council of Australia, which commissioned the report, believes the findings will help make the case for making fish oil exempt from GST or a candidate for subsidy under the federal government's Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme.

Fundamentally that would be a very good outcome for the general population health and a great outcome for the health budget, the Council's consumer affairs director, Justin Howden, said. No complementary therapies are GST free or available on the PBS.

The Deloitte report found that patients spent an average of $112.15 a year on fish oil treatments. Mr Howden acknowledged that a PBS subsidy or GST exemption for complementary medicines would require a radical shift in government policy.

This report is just part of public policy discussion, he said. It is the start of a very long process, probably up to five years. Dr Steve Hambleton, the president of the Australian Medical Association, said the Pharmaceutical Benefits Advisory Committee would require conclusive evidence that fish oil supplements work before considering them for inclusion in the scheme.

Organisations that have endorsed the cardiovascular benefits of fish oil include the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia, the National Heart Foundation of Australia and the WHO.

Have a Pharmacist send your prescription to you.