This four-in-one pill can help prevent a third of heart problems, finds study

A cheap, single pill taken once a day that combines four common drugs is safe and reduces the risk of events such as heart attacks, strokes and sudden death in people over the age of 50, research has found. It could help older people avoid taking so much medication

Image Source: Google
Image Source: Google

A daily pill containing four medicines can cut the number of heart attacks and strokes by a third, a study shows. The polypill contains blood-thinning aspirin, a cholesterol-lowering statin and two drugs to lower blood pressure.

The researchers, in Iran and the UK, said the pill had a huge impact but cost just pennies a day. They suggest giving it to everyone over a certain age in poorer countries, where doctors have fewer options and are less able to assess individuals.

Coronary heart disease and stroke are the top two causes of death worldwide, killing more than 15 million people a year.

Smoking, obesity and doing little exercise all increase the risk of an unhealthy heart. The study, published in the Lancet, was based in more than 100 villages in Iran and about 6,800 people took part.

Half the people were given the polypill and advice on how to improve their lifestyle, with the other half just getting the advice.

After five years there were:

  • 202 major cardiovascular events in the 3,421 people getting the polypill.
  • 301 in the 3,417 not getting the pill.

At this rate, giving the preventative drug combination to 35 people would prevent one of them developing a serious heart problem over the course of five years.

“We’ve provided evidence in a developing or middle-income country – and that’s a lot of countries – that this is a strategy worth considering,” Professor Tom Marshall, from the University of Birmingham.

The polypill led to large reductions in bad cholesterol but had only a slight effect on blood pressure, the study showed.

The drug was given to people over the age of 50 whether they had had a previous heart problem or not.

“Given the polypill’s affordability, there is considerable potential to improve cardiovascular health and to prevent the world’s leading cause of death,” said Dr Nizal Sarrafzadegan, of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, Iran.

The idea of the polypill has been around since 2001 but this is the first major trial to prove its effectiveness.

“Given the polypill’s affordability, there is considerable potential to improve cardiovascular health and to prevent the world’s leading cause of death,” said Dr Nizal Sarrafzadegan, of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, Iran.

The idea of the polypill has been around since 2001 but this is the first major trial to prove its effectiveness. “Given the polypill’s affordability, there is considerable potential to improve cardiovascular health and to prevent the world’s leading cause of death,” said Dr Nizal Sarrafzadegan, of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, Iran.

The researchers said the polypill could be particularly beneficial in low and middle income countries, with the study showing that simply giving it to people over a certain age, without the need for blood tests or complicated assessments, helps to prevent heart attacks, stroke and other such conditions.

The authors added that an additional benefit of the polypill was that patients did not have to take four separate tablets. That said, they stressed that a healthy lifestyle remained important for cardiovascular health.

Scientists in the field welcomed what they called a ‘robust’ study, but they noted there were limitations.

Prof Jeremy Pearson, an associate medical director at the British Heart Foundation, cautioned that the situation in Iran was very different to countries such as the UK. In high-income countries there is good preventive medical care and lower rates of cardiovascular disease than in rural Iran. This means the benefits of rolling out a polypill might be smaller in high-income countries.

Source: BBC