New ‘polypill’ could prevent 200,000 deaths, study shows
An ALL-IN-ONE “polypill” with the potential to save tens of thousands of lives each year in the UK could be available in less than two years.
Results from a groundbreaking trial, published yesterday, showed the four-medicine pill dramatically reduces major risks 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 prevented. 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 said: “The health implications of our results are large. If people took the polypill from age 50, an estimated 28 per cent 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 in the online journal Public Library of Science ONE.
Even before the pill was manufactured, it was predicted to have a major impact on population health. Those forecasts have now been borne out by the first randomised study of the pill’s effects on people with no history of heart disease.
A group of 84 men and women aged 50 and over were given the polypill or an inactive “dummy” tablet for three months. They then switched treatments for three months.
Taking the polypill led to a 12 per cent lowering of blood pressure and a 39 per cent reduction in levels of “bad” cholesterol, or low-density lipoprotein (LDL).
The cost of the prescription-only pill is expected to be no more than a few hundred pounds a year.
One of the trial participants was David Taylor, professor of pharmaceutical and public health policy at University College London. “The polypill concept is a major public health advance,” he said. “This study shows that it works. The polypill should be made generally available as a matter of urgency.”
However, the British Heart Foundation sounded a note of caution. Natasha Stewart, its senior cardiac nurse, said: “There are still many questions to answer before this ‘wonder drug’ is prescribed by doctors.”
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