A single pill combining aspirin and three other generic drugs will probably be an effective way to protect people from heart disease, the world’s biggest killer, researchers said.
Patients who are at high risk of heart disease were 33 percent more likely to take the four-in-one cocktail everyday, then those taking the pills individually, researchers said Nov. 4 at the American Heart Association’s meeting in Los Angeles. This is the first time the so-called polypill has been tested on heart patients, adding to earlier evidence of its efficacy.
Preventive medicines including cholesterol lowering statins and blood pressure drugs, can reduce the risk of future heart attacks if taken daily. Yet only 5 to 10 percent of high-risk patients in India and other developing nations take all their medicines, according to a 2011 study in The Lancet. Such all-in-one combination tablets, sold cheaply, can ensure patients don’t miss out on any of their prescribed drugs.
“The ambition is to make this virtually free,” Simon Thom, lead author of the study, and professor of cardiovascular medicine at Imperial College London, said in Los Angeles. “By having one capsule, one prescription, one visit, one truck to ship it on, it lowers the cost dramatically.”
Cardiovascular diseases are the leading cause of death worldwide, killing more than 17 million people, and accounting for about one in three deaths each year, according to the World Health Organization.
The pills used in the study were made by Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories Ltd., based in Hyderabad, and contained a cholesterol-lowering statin, together with aspirin and two blood pressure reducing medications.
The study lasted 15 months and followed 2,004 people with high risk of heart disease who were already on some form of medication. Half the group received the cocktail drug free of cost, while the others had to buy the four medicines separately as they normally would. The polypill patients had better reductions in cholesterol levels and blood pressure, compared with those getting the drugs separately.
The patients were evenly divided between India and western Europe, to demonstrate that the strategy could have benefits in both rich and poor settings, Thom said in a statement.