May 30, 2011

Pill Lowers Risk for Stroke and Heart Attack

(Ivanhoe Newswire) -- The world's first international polypill trial has shown that a four-in-one combination pill can halve the predicted risk of heart disease and stroke.

The once-a-day polypill contains aspirin and agents to lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
These drugs are currently prescribed separately to millions of patients and are known individually to cut the risk of disease, but many experts believe that combining them into a single pill will encourage people to take the medications more reliably.

The trial tested the effectiveness and tolerability of the polypill in 378 people with raised risk of cardiovascular disease, who did not necessarily have high blood pressure or cholesterol, against a placebo.

"The results show a halving in heart disease and stroke can be expected for people taking this polypill long-term," Professor Anthony Rodgers of The George Institute for Global Health, who led the international consortium, was quoted as saying.

"We know from other trials that long-term there would also be a 25-50% lower death rate from colon cancer, plus reductions in other major cancers, heart failure and renal failure," Professor Rodgers said. "These benefits would take several years to 'kick in', but of course one of the hopes with a polypill is it helps people take medicines long-term."

The authors noted that the benefits, while large, were not as massive as previous researchers have suggested, and the side effects were also not as rare as first thought. In the short-term about 1 in 6 people experienced a side effect. Most were mild but about 1 in 20 overall stopped treatment due to side effects, indicating that treatment is best targeted to those at raised risk of disease.

This polypill will be available in India soon and then elsewhere within a few years, according to regulatory timelines within each individual country.

In 2001, the World Health Organisation and the Wellcome Trust convened a meeting of experts to discuss affordable interventions for non-communicable diseases, including the potential of a fixed-dose combination pill to reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. From here a programme of research was outlined to assess whether this approach is safe, effective and practical.

SOURCE: PLoS ONE, May 2011.