Professor’s study backs FDA approval of fish oil to save critically ill babies

Dr. Cynthia Blanco with families
Dr. Cynthia Blanco, (second row, third from left) celebrates with children she helped save with the fish oil treatment and their families.

A San Antonio physician’s passion to save premature babies was instrumental in the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s recent approval of Omegaven, a lifesaving fish oil treatment for babies with gastrointestinal complications.

The study, led by Cynthia Blanco, M.D., of UT Health San Antonio, was published in the May 2017 edition of the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition. The study followed the outcomes of babies treated with fish oil in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at University Hospital. The study data provided some of the evidence the FDA considered for its approval July 27 of Omegaven in the United States..

KSAT 12: SA doctor reflects on FDA approval of fish oil treatment for babies

“Overall, since 2011, we have had more than 50 patients enrolled in our long-term study and their survival without liver transplant increased dramatically ― to better than 90 percent,” she said. Dr. Blanco and her team will now be continuing their efforts in writing the national guidelines for Omegaven in the U.S.

Dr. Blanco is a professor of pediatrics and holds the Greehey Family Foundation Chair in Neonatology Research at UT Health San Antonio. She also is medical director of the Neonatal Nutrition & Bone Institute and the neonatal transport team at University Health System.

Omegaven is a fish oil-based solution used to provide nutrition to critically ill patients. It has been used in Canada, Australia and Europe, but was not previously approved for widespread use in the U.S.

The FDA’s approval of Omegaven is for pediatric patients with parenteral nutrition-associated cholestasis (PNAC), a liver condition caused by a reduction in the flow of bile from the liver into the small intestine.

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