Leader: Super pill could prove to be a bitter one

ONCE upon a time, when family doctors visited their patients at home, prescribing a pill to cure an ailment was a relatively rare thing. Mostly, doctors recommended rest, much consumption of water, some tender loving care, and letting nature take its course. Patients too, tended to regard pills with suspicion.

Nowadays, however, the consumption of pills and potions is regarded as routine. There can be few homes whose bathroom cabinets are not bulging with medications of one form or another, a testament not just to the advances of medical knowledge but also to changing fashions.

So it is not altogether surprising that medical researchers have come up with a "polypill" which combines four different drugs and, according to evidence, reduces the risk of heart disease and strokes by about half. Older generations won't be surprised either, that this apparent miracle pill induced side effects such as stomach irritation and coughing. But the researchers still seem convinced the super pill may be a good thing and taken by everyone over the age of 55 to reduce the risk of disease.

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More work needs to be done. In these days of almost daily health scares, it may turn out that this pill actually only cures one condition - hypochondria.