September 2, 2006

Spain may lead world with heart “polypill” in 2009

By Ben Hirschler, European Pharmaceuticals Correspondent

BARCELONA (Reuters) - Spain could lead the world with the
launch in 2009 or 2010 of the first three-in-one "polypill" to
prevent heart attacks, a top cardiologist advising on the
project said on Saturday.

If successful, the combo pill would be rolled out next in
China and then across the globe, giving doctors a new weapon in
the battle against heart disease, World Heart Federation
President Valentin Fuster said.

The polypill would include generic versions of three
established medicines -- a cholesterol-lowering statin, an ACE
inhibitor for reducing blood pressure and aspirin -- and would
be given to patients who had already experienced a heart

At the moment, such patients are often required to take
multiple drugs, which is expensive. They also frequently forget
to take the right medicine at the right time.

"A single pill would be much easier and cheaper," Fuster
told reporters on the opening day of the World Congress of

Proponents have long called for a polypill but plans to
introduce one have been complicated by rivalry among large drug
companies, which are keen to promote their patented products.

Fuster said the new plan would involve medium-sized
companies interested in selling a cheaper generic-based

Spain's cardiology institute is already in discussions with
an unnamed mid-sized Spanish company about the venture and
Fuster said around a dozen companies were in talks worldwide.

The combination pill will have to win regulatory approval
from bodies such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)
and European Medicines Agency. But Fuster said the FDA had
already shown interest in the project, given the big impact it
could have on disease.


Cardiologists aim to raise awareness of the threat posed by
heart disease in the developing world at their September 2-6
meeting, which is expected to attract more than 25,000

Fuster said cheaper interventions such as the polypill
would be critical in poorer countries, where cardiovascular
disease is growing alarmingly, driven by worsening diets and

Some 80 percent of heart attacks now occur in low and
middle-income countries.

"It's growing dramatically in India, South Asia, China and
Indonesia. Nearly 50 percent of deaths now occur in Asia
alone," Fuster said.

In total, heart disease cut short an estimated 17.5 million
lives last year, making it the world's biggest killer.

Despite the huge toll, however, the United Nations has not
included cardiovascular disease among its health-related
Millennium Development Goals, a situation the World Heart
Federation is lobbying hard to change.

Heart disease is caused by blocked arteries and develops
over time by the build-up of cholesterol and fat. The decreased
blood supply can lead to a heart attack and death.