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Special Feature

OMG, it's omega-3!

  • from Shaastra :: vol 01 issue 03 :: May - Jun 2022
Ajit Kamath's Arch Pharmalabs is looking to produce a purified grade of two main O3FAs from sardine oil to supply to global O3FA-based-drug makers.

The sharpened pharmaceutical gaze on Omega-3 Fatty Acids is a game-changer for the controversial nutrient that is hailed as a miracle pill.

Not too long ago, Ajit Kamath stood gazing at one of a clutch of crude fish oil factories along the coastline of the Arabian Sea off Mangaluru. The region offers a rich haul of the Indian sardine, a source of Omega-3 Fatty Acids (O3FA), a group of polyunsaturated fatty acids or PUFAs, widely acknowledged as good for health. The human body cannot synthesise O3FA but can source it from foods such as fatty fish, nuts and seeds.

There is an established global market for O3FA dietary supplements or nutraceuticals, but Kamath, Chairman of the Mumbai-based bulk drugs producer Arch Pharmalabs, is aiming higher. Arch is looking to produce a highly purified grade of two main O3FAs - eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) - from sardine oil to supply to global O3FA-based-drug makers.

In January, Arch announced a partnership with U.S.-based Orochem Technologies in a bid to become the first Indian producer of highly-purified EPA and DHA to standards set by drug regulators such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (USFDA).

The pharmaceutical entrepreneur is clear about his focus. "We would not have gone near O3FA as nutraceuticals," Kamath says. But in the West and Japan, "these fatty acids have transcended from nutraceuticals to pharmaceuticals."

The last decade has seen a growing interest in omega-3 from the global drug industry. The market is lucrative: Vascepa, a brand of a highly purified EPA derivative from Irish-American pharma company Amarin Corporation, earned revenues of $500 million-plus in 2021 in the U.S., less than a decade after winning USFDA approval. Amarin is now taking Vascepa, prescribed to lower triglyceride levels and reduce cardiovascular risks, to other large markets.

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