05 June 2011

Four in one pill for blood pressure control

A daily pill can cut the risk of heart attacks and strokes by more than half, a study has found.

The four-in-one “polypill” contains aspirin, statins to lower cholesterol and two medicines to lower blood pressure, combining elements from separate pills that are already taken by millions of people around the world.

 Doctors have long hoped that a combined tablet would be easier and cheaper for patients, even suggesting it could eventually be taken by everyone over 55. Cardiovascular disease accounts for one in three deaths in Britain.

The first international trial of a polypill tested it on 378 people in Britain, Australia, Brazil, India, New Zealand, the Netherlands and the US. All had a more than 7.5 per cent risk of developing heart disease within five years, but none had previously been prescribed any of the polypill components. After 12 weeks, there had been “sizeable reductions” in cholesterol and blood pressure, researchers report in the journal Public Library of Science One.

“The results show a halving in heart disease and stroke can be expected for people taking this polypill long term,” said Anthony Rodgers of the George Institute for Global Health, who led the consortium. “We know from other trials that, long term, there would also be a 25 to 50 per cent lower death rate from colon cancer, plus reductions in other major cancers, heart failure and renal failure.”

The Red Heart Pill used in the trial is likely to be available in India within a few years, costing a few pounds a month, though it may cost more in wealthier countries.

Ted Bianco, Director of Technology Transfer at the Wellcome Trust, which helped to fund the study, said: “Few of us would dissent from the view that prevention is better than cure in most matters medical. It is good news, indeed, to see the evidence base grow for the potential use of a new generation of combination products as a safe and affordable option in the battle against heart attack and stroke.”