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One Pill For Heart Disease, Stroke

March 30, 2009

A major study has found promising new results for an experimental pill that could serve as a one-size-fits-most treatment to prevent heart attacks and stroke.

The so-called “polypill” is made up of aspirin, three blood pressure-lowering drugs and a cholesterol-lowering statin drug.

Researchers noted that the polypill proved to be equally as effective as each of its components are when taken alone.

Additionally, they found that the polypill could effectively cut a person’s risk of heart disease and stroke in half.

“Widely applied, this could have profound implications,” Dr. Robert Harrington, an American College of Cardiology spokesman and chief of Duke University’s heart research institute, told the AP.

“President Obama is trying to offer the greatest care to the greatest number. This very much fits in with that.”

Dr. James Stein of the University of Wisconsin-Madison said the polypill would represent a great reduction in the number of pills taken by heart disease patients, which could serve as a strong morale boost as well.

“If you take any medicines, you know that every pill you see in your hand makes you feel five years older. Patients really object to pill burden,” he said.

Dr. Salim Yusuf of McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario, and Dr. Prem Pais of St. John’s Medical College, Bangalore, India led the 12-week study that involved Cadila Pharmaceuticals’ Polycap pill. Overall, 2,053 people between the ages of 45 and 80 years were involved in the study. 400 patients received the polypill, while the rest were place in groups of 200 and given a combination of its components.

Researchers noted that Polycap reduced blood pressure enough to account for a 24 percent drop in heart disease risk and a 33 percent decrease in risk of stroke.

The pill also reduced cholesterol levels enough to cut the risk of heart disease by 27 percent and stroke by 8 percent, they said.

However, researchers did admit that the polypill’s cholesterol reduction rate was slightly less than the stain drug, simvastatin, when taken alone.

Side effect rates also were the same for the polypill as for the five separate medicines, researchers told the AP.

“That was a big surprise. I would have expected five times the number of people to have side effects,” said Dr. Christopher Cannon, a cardiologist at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston who did not participate in the study.

The polypill’s price has yet to be revealed, but its components cost about $17 each month.

“It won’t be for everybody,” Cannon said in a commentary in the journal Lancet. “We have to be cautious about assuming that one size fits all,” Stein said. “Treating risk factors is a lot like cooking – the ingredients count.”

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