WEDNESDAY, May 25 (HealthDay News) -- A cheap, once-daily,
four-drugs-in-one medication, dubbed a "polypill," appears to cut
users' odds for heart disease and stroke by 50 percent, a new
international study finds.
The pill combines two blood pressure-lowering medications with
aspirin and a cholesterol-lowering statin and is designed to make
all these heart-protecting drugs easy to take, researchers say.
That, along with its expected cheap cost, might improve compliance
with medication regimens, experts suggest.
"We think the role for the polypill is among those at risk of heart disease, in preventing heart attacks and strokes," said lead researcher Dr. Anthony Rodgers, a professor of global health at The George Institute in Sydney, Australia.
The study was funded by public health agencies in Australia,
Brazil, New Zealand and the United Kingdom. India-based drug maker
Dr. Reddy's Laboratories supplied the pill but did not play a role
Rodgers stressed that there are still unanswered questions about
the pros and cons of using this type of combination pill versus
prescribing several pills, where doses and medications are tailored
to individual patients. A trial is ongoing to look at that
question, he said.
However, tailoring medications in this area is not as important
as it once seemed, Rodgers believes. "We realize now the importance
of treating the overall risk. And this [pill] is part of that
paradigm shift," he said. He noted that the polypill will probably
not ever replace the use of individual pills for every patient.
"There will always be patients who do better on individually dosed
medicines," he added.
The report was published in the May 25 online edition of the
In addition to 75 milligrams of aspirin, the polypill contains
10 milligrams of the blood pressure-lowering drug Prinzide
(lisinopril), 12.5 milligrams of the blood pressure drug
hydrochlorothiazide (a diuretic) and 20 milligrams of the
cholesterol-lowering statin Zocor (simvastatin).
The new study included 378 people, typically between the ages of
50 and 70 and assessed to be at a moderately heightened risk for
heart disease over the next five years. The participants, who were
randomly assigned to receive the polypill or a placebo, came from
the United Kingdom, Australia, Brazil, India, New Zealand, the
Netherlands and the United States.
Over 12 weeks, people taking the polypill saw an average
reduction in their systolic blood pressure (the top number in a
reading) of 9.9 mmHg, and what Rodgers called a "significant" 0.8
mmol/L average reduction in their LDL "bad" cholesterol, compared
with those receiving placebo. Improvements such as these added up
to an estimated halving of cardiovascular risk, the team said.
However, about one in every six people taking the polypill
experienced some sort of side effect, the team added. In fact,
about one in every 20 users quit the drug because of this, a higher
rate than had been seen in prior studies involving the
Overall, the benefits of the polypill, while significant, were
not as large as others have suggested, Rodgers said, and side
effects were not as limited as had been thought. Given that
finding, Rodgers' group thinks the polypill should be given
primarily to those at risk for heart disease or stroke.
Another expert agreed that the study offered up good news and
"There were significant reductions in blood pressure and lipid [blood fat] levels," said Dr. Gregg C. Fonarow, a professor of cardiology at the University of California, Los Angeles. "However, the polypill was less well-tolerated than expected."
Still, he said there's been longstanding interest in developing
a single pill with fixed-dose combinations of heart-protective
medications, especially for use by people in the developing world
who may have limited access to health care, and where low cost is a
"Each of the individual components employed in the polypill are generic medications and available in the U.S. for $40 a year each -- that's $160 for a year supply for all four medications," Fonarow noted. "If integrated into a single pill the expected cost of such a polypill would be even lower," he said.
According to Rodgers, the polypill is expected to cost even less
than that -- about $2 a month in poorer countries. And since it is
only one daily pill, compliance should be higher compared to when a
patient needs to take several pills per day.
According to the report, this polypill will be available in
India soon and elsewhere within a few years. Around the world,
about 80 percent of all deaths from heart disease, stroke and
diabetes happen in low- or middle-income countries, the researchers
For more information on cardiovascular disease, visit the
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
Copyright © EBSCO Publishing. All rights reserved.