The miracle 'polypill': Daily three-in-one medication could halve the risk of a stroke

The miracle ‘polypill’: Daily three-in-one medication could halve the risk of a stroke, researchers say

  • The ‘polypill’ contains a mix of substances to cut blood pressure and cholesterol 
  • It will likely cost just pennies a day and lowers heart attack risk by 53 per cent
  • Research found those who took the pill also had a 51 per cent lower risk of stroke
  • More than 18,000 patients were given a polypill, a dummy pill or no tablet
  • ‘This could help millions of people around the world,’ said the study’s author


A daily pill containing three types of medication could halve a person’s risk of a heart attack or stroke.

The ‘polypill’, which is likely to cost just pennies a day, contains blood-thinning aspirin, a cholesterol-lowering statin and at least two drugs to cut blood pressure.

Researchers studied more than 18,000 patients given a polypill, a dummy pill or no tablet. Those who took a polypill had a 53 per cent lower risk of suffering a heart attack, and 51 per cent reduced odds of having a stroke.

Cases of gastrointestinal bleeding were only slightly higher in people on the combination treatment, and peptic ulcers were not significantly higher, suggesting the daily aspirin was safe.

The analysis drew together the evidence from three major studies on the treatment, which supporters say should be given to healthy people to prevent them having heart problems and strokes. 

Professor Salim Yusuf, senior author of the study from McMaster University in Canada, said: ‘The idea of a polypill reducing people’s risk of cardiovascular disease has been around for 20 years, but we now have very clear evidence of its large benefit, and it is time for it to be prescribed.

Researchers studied more than 18,000 patients given a polypill, a dummy pill or no tablet. Those who took a polypill had a 53 per cent lower risk of suffering a heart attack, and 51 per cent reduced odds of having a stroke.

Researchers studied more than 18,000 patients given a polypill, a dummy pill or no tablet. Those who took a polypill had a 53 per cent lower risk of suffering a heart attack, and 51 per cent reduced odds of having a stroke.

‘The science suggests we should give it to everyone aged over 50 or 55, but doctors are more likely to choose those in this age group with a risk factor for having a heart attack or stroke, such as those with elevated blood pressure or diabetes, past and current smokers and those with a history of cardiovascular conditions.

… AND ONE FOR BLOOD PRESSURE

Combining four different blood pressure tablets into a ‘quadpill’ is a more effective treatment, according to researchers.

Doctors often put patients on one blood pressure drug, then consider changing or adding to the medication if it doesn’t work.

Australian researchers studied the effects of one pill containing a beta blocker, a ‘water pill’ or diuretic, a calcium channel blocker and an angiotensin receptor blocker.

Some 76 per cent of those on the combined pill had their blood pressure under control within three months, compared with only 58 per cent among those taking one drug.

‘As that represents around 70 per cent of adults, even this approach could help millions of people around the world.’

The idea of several pills in one came from looking at the blood clots which trigger heart attacks and strokes. A clot can form when the body tries to fix blood vessel damage from high blood pressure, or ruptured fatty deposits caused by high cholesterol.

So it makes sense to give someone a statin to lower their cholesterol, tablets to reduce high blood pressure, and aspirin to thin their blood and prevent a clot.

The researchers looked at the drugs taken together across three studies involving 18,162 people, who were tracked over an average of five years. Among those given no treatment, or a dummy pill, 227 people, or 2.5 per cent, died from cardiovascular disease.

That rate fell to 144 people, or 1.6 per cent, in those taking statins, blood pressure tablets and aspirin – either separately or together as a polypill.

The analysis, published in the Lancet medical journal, looked at people with no previous cardiovascular health problems to determine if the drugs could protect them from future ones. The benefits were consistent in those with different blood pressure and cholesterol levels, but worked better in older people, the annual conference of the European Society of Cardiology heard.

Professor Yusuf said: ‘These results are huge, and (the polypill’s) wide use can avoid between five and ten million individuals experiencing a stroke, heart attack or dying from these conditions yearly.’

source: dailymail.co.uk