New ‘polypill’ could become a reality

New pill cuts heart disease by up to 80%

A cheap five-in-one pill can guard against heart attacks and stroke, research suggests.

The concept of a polypill for everyone over 55 to cut heart disease by up to 80% was suggested over five years ago. Now a trial in India shows such a pill has the desired effects and is safe and well-tolerated by those who take it.

Although The Lancet study is proof the concept works, experts still question the ethics of a pill for lifestyle issues. Critics say the problems of high blood pressure and cholesterol should be tackled with diet and exercise rather than by popping a pill.

The polypill used in the latest study combines five active pharmacological ingredients widely available separately – aspirin, a statin to lower cholesterol and three blood pressure-lowering drugs – as well as folic acid.

The researchers believe that the combined action of all the components in their ‘Polycap’ capsule could potentially halve strokes and heart attacks in average, middle-aged people. On a global scale, this would save tens of millions of lives.

Mike Rich of UK charity the Blood Pressure Association said: ‘This study further stimulates the debate over whether a ‘magic bullet’ is the answer to the prevention of heart disease and strokes.

‘Eating healthily and taking regular exercise are proven ways to lower high blood pressure – and have many other health benefits too – and there is a danger that these lifestyle factors could be overlooked in favour of ‘popping a pill’.’

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