April 2, 2009

Five-in-one Heart Health Pill Safe

 A five-in-one pill that may cut a person's risk of cardiovascular disease by 50 to 60 percent was well-tolerated by participants in the first study to evaluate the pill in humans.

Polycap, or the "polypill," is a combination of three blood pressure lowering drugs, a statin and aspirin.

Researchers examined the impact of the polypill and eight other drug therapies on cardiovascular health measures like blood cholesterol and heart rate in 2,053 participants in India. Throughout the 12-week, randomized, double-blind study, investigators found no evidence of problems associated with the increased number of drugs in the polypill.

"[The study] showed that the side effect rate with one drug active [and with five drugs active] were identical," principal investigator Salim Yusuf, DPhil, FRCPC, of the Population Health Research Institute at McMaster University and Hamilton Health Sciences in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, said.

The pill reduced systolic blood pressure by 7.4 mmHg and diastolic blood pressure by 5.6 mmHg, an effect similar to that of three blood pressure lowering drugs. It reduced LDL, or bad cholesterol, at a rate slightly less than the drug simvastatin (Zocor) and reduced heart rate by an amount similar to atenolol (Tenormin).

"We estimate that the polypill will likely reduce heart disease by about 60 percent and stroke by 50 percent," Dr. Yusuf said.

Dr. Yusuf said if the polypill becomes a standard therapy, it could significantly reduce health care costs.


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