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Polypill dramatically cuts risk of heart attack and stroke

An all-in-one “polypill” with the potential to save many tens of thousands of lives each year in the UK could be available in less than two years.

Results from a ground-breaking trial today showed that the four-medicine pill dramatically reduces major risk factors for heart attack and stroke.

In a group of healthy individuals aged 50 and over, it cut levels of blood pressure and cholesterol to those typical of a 20-year-old.

If everyone in the UK from a similar age group took the pill, the findings suggest an estimated 100,000 to 200,000 deaths would be saved.

The number of averted non-fatal cases, including many involving life-changing disablement, could be double this figure.

Experts called for the polypill to be made generally available to the UK population “without delay”.

Realistically it could take another one to two years for all the regulatory hurdles to be overcome, according to study leader Dr David Wald, from Queen Mary, University of London.

The polypill is a layered tablet containing three blood pressure-lowering drugs and a cholesterol-lowering statin.

Dr Wald, from Queen Mary, University of London, said: “The health implications of our results are large. If people took the polypill from age 50, an estimated 28% would benefit by avoiding or delaying a heart attack or stroke during their lifetime; on average, those who benefit would gain 11 years of life without a heart attack or stroke.”

The findings are published today in the online journal Public Library of Science ONE.

Readers' comments (4)

  • This "trial" involved 84 people .

    Dr Nicholas Wald (the son of Dr David Wald) jointly holds European and Canadian patents (EU1272220 priority date 10 April 2000) for a combination pill for the prevention of cardiovascular disease (pending in USA) and together with Dr.David Wald has an interest in its development.

    Note the interest !

    This study is an extremely cynical marketing exercise. These two doctors are attempting to move toward a system of mass medication which of course would benefit them financially.

    I wonder how this "trial " ever gained ethical approval when one of the investigators clearly has a financial interest in the outcome!

    That said at least Dr Margaret McCartney, a Glasgow GP asks why doctors would want to end up screening healthy people rather than treating sick ones and said more evidence was needed before a mass programme was embarked upon.

    "The history of medicine is rich with ideas that sounded great but either didn’t prove effective - or worse, did harm," she said.
    "Because of this, we need trial evidence that looks at real life outcomes like death rates - not just biochemical numbers.
    "We also have increasing evidence that well women, for example, don't benefit from statins - meaning that we may only be offering them side effects- and while muscle aches might seem like a minor side effect, if it stops someone walking or socialising it becomes major.
    "We need much larger trials that gives us fair representations of risk and harm - and that's independent - separate from patent holders."

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • This "trial" involved 84 people .

    Dr Nicholas Wald (the son of Dr David Wald) jointly holds European and Canadian patents (EU1272220 priority date 10 April 2000) for a combination pill for the prevention of cardiovascular disease (pending in USA) and together with Dr.David Wald has an interest in its development.

    Note the interest !

    This study is an extremely cynical marketing exercise. These two doctors are attempting to move toward a system of mass medication which of course would benefit them financially.

    I wonder how this "trial " ever gained ethical approval when one of the investigators clearly has a financial interest in the outcome!

    That said at least Dr Margaret McCartney, a Glasgow GP asks why doctors would want to end up screening healthy people rather than treating sick ones and said more evidence was needed before a mass programme was embarked upon.

    "The history of medicine is rich with ideas that sounded great but either didn’t prove effective - or worse, did harm," she said.
    "Because of this, we need trial evidence that looks at real life outcomes like death rates - not just biochemical numbers.
    "We also have increasing evidence that well women, for example, don't benefit from statins - meaning that we may only be offering them side effects- and while muscle aches might seem like a minor side effect, if it stops someone walking or socialising it becomes major.
    "We need much larger trials that gives us fair representations of risk and harm - and that's independent - separate from patent holders."

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • So we now assume that practically everyone has a need to take lifelong medication. Disease is suddenly the default state in other words. I don't think so. People might like to look at the health risk of cholesterol being too low. There is an actual reason why our bodies manufacture this stuff.

    I find this shocking if I'm honest. Shocking that it might actually happen, not that someone with everything to gain financially would want it to, obviously.

    Unsuitable or offensive?

  • It seems ridiculous to put everyone in the same pot when being treated. Except it isn't treatment, is it, it is dressed up as 'prevention'? I remember the days when Drs actually reduced polypharmacy and patients often improved. Having reached an age where it is thought antihypertensives and cholesterol lowering medication will extend my life, I worry about the long term side effects. I work with patients following a stroke, and many are on these medications. We are led to believe that these patients have had a stroke because they are in a high risk group and have needed these drugs. However, I question whether it could be the polypharmacy that is also having a contributing factor. I do, or even partly the cause. Drug companies will ever fund or carry out such research to establish whether polypharmacy is a contributing/causal factor, as it would damage them financially. Drug companies rule!

    Unsuitable or offensive?

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